As impressive as the Bengals were in outplaying Tampa Bay in last week's pre-season opener, the Chiefs were as dominant over the surprisingly flat hosts Saturday night by 30-12 at Paul Brown Stadium.
The first-team offense could muster only two field goals. The top defensive regulars allowed three drives inside the 9 and a touchdown pass each by quarterback Alex Smith and rookie backup quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
It got uglier as the Bengals fell to 1-1.
Trailing 16-9 at halftime, the Bengals coveted depth also took a hit when Mahomes and veteran No. 3 Tyler Bray opened the second half with touchdown passes as the Chiefs expanded their lead to 30-9 in the middle of the third quarter. Bray connected with wide receiver Seantavius Jones on his first pass of the night for a TD from the 18-yard line, where the Chiefs picked off Andy Dalton when wide receiver Chris Brown stretched for McCarron's pass over the middle and he deflected it for an interception.
Bright spots? The kicking battle continues to be locked in perfection. Both veteran Randy Bullock (47 and 26 yards) and rookie Jake Elliott (32 and 39 yards) hit all their field-goal tries on Saturday to remain perfect in both pre-season games. The bad news is those four field goals were the Bengals' only points.
And just like he was last week, backup defensive end Chris Smith tortured every tackle he went up against, except on Saturday he got a sack to go along with a rash of pressures. Plus, rookie end Jordan Willis got a sack for the second time in as many weeks, this one against his hometown Chiefs.
But other than that … Starting safety Shawn Williams left with a dislocated elbow and promising rookie linebacker Hardy Nickerson was helped off the field with a lower back injury with less than four minutes left.
The Chiefs added the final blow of the evening working against the backup front seven of Marcus Hardison, Ryan Glasgow, Josh Tupou, and Ryan Brown up front and Marquis Flowers, Jordan Evans, and Bryson Albright at linebacker. Chiefs running back Charcandrick West rattled off runs of 27, 25, and 50 on the way to busting the 100-yard mark on seven carries.
The Bengals needed heroics from McCarron in the half's final 1:05 to cut into the lead. Checking into the game for the first time, McCarron fried the Chiefs' man-to-man defense on consecutive passes of 31 and 25 yards, respectively to Alex Erickson and Tyler Boyd. Boyd made the play with 13 seconds left at the Kansas City 8 and a clock management snafu looked to cost the Bengals one last shot at the end zone. They had to settle for Randy Bullock's 26-yard field goal as time ran out after they called a timeout with four seconds left.
They could have used that first timeout back, which they needed when right tackle Andre Smith failed to report on time for Bullock's first field goal.
It was a tough first half for the Bengals defense. It allowed all three drives to least their eight on 201 yards as Smith and Mahomes converted five of seven third downs while their running game cranked out 5.2 yards per 16 rushes.
Not only that, Shawn Williams left the field on a cart with what was later characterized as dislocated elbow. "First of all, we have to finish drives and get in the end zone," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis at halftime. "Defensively, we have to do a better job of stopping our opponents on third down. When you don't stop them on third down, you let them keep their drives going and it keeps our offense off the field."
Mahomes converted back-to-back third-and-sixes (the last to wide receiver Tyreek Hill sliding in front of cornerback Darqueze Dennard for nine yards) and he set up his one-yard touchdown pass when he outran the Bengals defense for 14 yards when his pocket collapsed. That made it 16-6 with 1:05 left in the half.
Mahomes, by the way, looks like he can play right now with a rifle that completed four of five passes for 35 yards to go along with two rushes for 18 yards.
While the Bengals were porous against the run, they weren't as nearly as effective running the ball as they were against the Buccaneers. Rookie running back Joe Mixon was held to 16 yards on six carries and Jeremy Hill could only offer 28 yards on six carries. Quarterback Andy Dalton could never quite get into sync on seven of 13 passing for 98 yards and got two field goals but the No. 1 unit doesn't have a TD after two pre-season games.
"I thought we moved the ball fairly well overall. But we've got to score TDs," said Dalton at halftime. "We picked up a few first downs and kept things moving, but we've got to cross the goal line."
That Bengals' opening drive to start the game had a little bit of everything against that man defense, including a rare wide-open incompletion from Dalton to wide receiver A.J. Green on third-and-9 on a shallow cross that set up Bullock's 47-yard field goal 4:24 into the game.
It was wide open when Chiefs Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters fell down and Dalton threw it high and behind Green and he still got his hands on it but dropped it and Bullock came on to go 3-for-3 on the preseason.
But Green and Dalton hooked up on the two previous third downs, the last a 22-yard gain over the middle on third-and-20 when Green knifed in front of cornerback Phillip Gaines. On third-and-five Dalton whistled a first-down pass to Green bodying up Gaines on the sideline for an eight-yarder.
The running game opened encouragingly when Hill picked up a total of 12 yards on two counter plays fueled by the pulls of left guard Clint Boling and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. But the next two runs to Hill and Mixon got nothing and Green wiped out a wide-open 16-yard completion off a play-action counter rollout when he was called for pushing off.
Also hurting the cause was right tackle Jake Fisher giving up a pressure and when Dalton tried to hit a wide-open Green the ball was batted down. But other than that, a pressure by Dee Ford working on Ogbuehi, and a stunt gone bad were pretty much the only heat on Dalton.
The Chiefs, who ran the ball just 14 times last week, ran it the first four plays and got it into the hands of rookie running back Kareem Hunt seven times on the first drive. But the big play came on quarterback Alex Smith's 36-yard throw to Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce down the seam working on middle linebacker Kevin Minter.
Still, the Bengals held when they faced a first-and-goal from their 8 when Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was called for a hold and when Smith tried to hit wide receiver Chris Conley on a slant, Dennard was all over it to force an incompletion and the Chiefs called on backup kicker Sam Ficken to kick 23-yard field goal to tie at a 3 with 3:18 left in the first quarter.
Mixon got stoned on first down on the Bengals' next play and they failed to pick up a linebacker/tackle stunt up front and Dalton got sacked by uncovered tackle Allen Bailey coming up the middle for the big play in a three-and-out.
The Chiefs then took a 10-3 lead in disastrous drive. Will Monday, punting for Kevin Huber (calf), shanked an 11-yarder to begin things at the Bengals 46. With backup tackles Glasgow and Andrew Billings in the game, Hunt rumbled up the middle for 25 yards.
Then after Shawn Williams got hurt, Smith converted a fourth-and-one when he hit fullback Anthony Sherman working on linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the flat for a six-yard gain.
With Shawn Williams out of the game, 5-10 Derron Smith was posted up by 6-7 tight end Demetrius Harris down the middle to give Kansas City a 10-3 lead with 12:27 left in the half.
Lewis sent out the first offense for a third and final series of the night and Dalton's protection on the left side cracked a tad. Ford chased him out of the pocket to the right side, but Dalton hit wide receiver Tyler Boyd for a sliding 20-yard catch. Ford did chase down Dalton running past Ogbuehi on third-and-five on the right sideline (other than that Ogbuehi did pretty well), but on fourth-and-five from the Chiefs 35 Dalton found 6-3, 208-pound rookie wide receiver Josh Malone bodying up Gaines on the sideline for a first down for a 15-yard gain.
The Bengals just couldn't finish in the red zone. On third-and-two Dalton thought he had Green one-on-one down the right sideline but the Chiefs changed up the coverage and Green ran out of room when Dalton sailed it out of bounds to set up Elliott's 32-yard field goal with 7:22 left in the half to cut Kansas City's lead to 10-6.
PRE-GAME HITS:It looked like another night for the kids in Saturday's pre-season game against the Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis again started Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson in place of regular cornerbacks Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick.
Also getting the start for the second straight game in the secondary is sophomore safety Clayton Fejedelem in place of George Iloka (knee). Plus, second-year man Trey Hopkins again got the nod at right guard ahead of veteran Andre Smith in a depth chart scenario that has Smith potentially backing up right guard and both tackles.
And look for more from emerging crowd favorite Joe Mixon as the rookie running back again figures to get plenty of snaps with Giovani Bernard resting one more game. Bernard has looked sharp in practice but his ACL rehab continues to move cautiously. He figures to make his debut next week in Washington. So does rookie wide receiver John Ross (shoulder) after he participated against the defense for the first time this week.
Also joining Bernard and Ross among those not expected to play Saturday is wide receiver Cody Core after he turned his ankle in last week's victory over Tampa Bay. Kirkpatrick also isn't expected to go for the second straight week as they protect his hand, but he's another guy to look for in Washington a week from Sunday when the Bengals go national TV on FOX.
More kids? Check out undrafted rookie safety Demetrious Cox out of Michigan State. With Iloka out, sixth-rounder Brandon Wilson yet to take the field since he got drafted with a mysterious knee injury, and Cedric Thompson waived injured Saturday, the Bengals are hurting for safety snaps.
Cincinnati Bengals host Kansas City Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium in week 2 of the preseason