Joe Burrow had his 90 seconds and a pair of rookies had their moments in the first half of Sunday's preseason finale at Paul Brown Stadium against the Dolphins.
On the final play of the half Evan McPherson would have tied the club record with a 57-yard yard field goal if this thing had counted for Pro Football Reference in cutting the Dolphins' lead to 14-13.
Long before that, after Burrow and his first team offense exited after a three-and-out, running back Chris Evans entered stage right on the first play of the second quarter and tied the game at seven. Working out of the slot in a five-receiver spread with an empty backfield, Evans did what he's supposed to against a linebacker and beat Duke Riley down the right sideline and backup quarterback Brandon Allen dropped it into him at the goal line for a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Evans, the sixth-round pick from Michigan, had the No. 3 spot in the backfield behind Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine all but wrapped up coming into the game. That should do it, although Trayveon Williams was playing his first game of the preseason.
That was the Bengals' longest pass of the preseason, beating a ball from earlier in the drive, a 23-yader Allen delivered to Trenton Irwin in a hole in the zone. Irwin, trying to grab one of the last receiver spots, held on to another ball after he took a big hit.
The second offensive group moved the ball pretty well with a trio of rookies in the interior centered by Trey Hill with D'Ante Smith at left guard and Jackson Carman at right guard. After Evans' touchdown, they got the ball back at the Miami 44 when safety Trayvon Henderson grabbed his second interception off a tipped pass in the preseason, this one courtesy of linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither.
Henderson had been in the game because safety Brandon Wilson hurt his hand, but he came back later. They overcame one of two penalties called on right tackle Fred Johnson in the drive. After his hold, Mitchell Wilcox, coming into the game vying for that third tight end spot, made his case when he caught a ball over middle for a first down on second-and-20 despite losing his helmet.
Wilcox would leave for the locker room after the drive with a concussion.
But Johnson's false start killed them in the red zone and the Bengals had to turn to Austin Seibert's tryout for another team. Siebert put a 36-yard field goal on tape for a 10-7 lead with 7:22 left in the first half. At that point the Bengals had amassed a solid 123 yards with Allen 5 of 7 for 87 of them and Evans adding 10 yards on three rushes.
But the defense gave up their second long drive of the half as Dolphins quarterback Reid Sinnett gouged them for 144 yards on 12 of 16 passing. With that 10-7 lead, the Bengals defense had a third down in the red zone, but missed tackles by Henderson and rookie cornerback Antonio Phillips led to the touchdown. Plus, they were soft on the edge against the run and short pass in that drive and allowed a 15-yard, the longest run they've allowed in the preseason.
They did get a big first series from second-year edge Khalid Kareem. Kareem, battling arthritis in the shoulder, made his 2021 debut count on his first three snaps, too. On the first one he knocked down a pass and on the third one he forced a punt with a sack. But he left later in the game with what could be an issue with the other shoulder.
Hill (groin) limped off the field on the last series of the half, commandeered by third quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Hill's replacement, Keaton Sutherland, got nailed for a hold on his first snap. But a 32-yard pass to wide receiver Mike Thomas and McPherson bailed them.