Brandon Tate became the first of four Bengals wide receivers to score touchdowns Thursday.
KANSAS CITY - When you cut through all the 188-minute preseason hiccups, only two things really mattered in Bengaldom after the 41-39 run-and-gun loss to the Chiefs in the opener at Arrowhead Stadium.
Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green are on the same page, 53 yards worth, and the Bengals' first-team defense doesn't look much different than the one that finished third in the NFL last season.
"It's what we wanted," Dalton said. "A good start."
Dalton and crew started backed up at their own 7, but that 53-yard bomb to Green down the middle of the field says it all. It ignited the nine-play drive that gobbled up 81 yards and a 30-yard Mike Nugent field goal that sent the first team to the showers.
The fact that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson called the bomb in a game like this says a lot about his steel-belted aggressiveness and the chemistry between Dalton and Green as Dalton worked behind a paint-by-the-numbers offensive line of two rookies and two backup tackles against the Chiefs' ferocious pass rushers.
When head coach Marvin Lewis was asked after the game if he thought about sitting Dalton for the night, Lewis laughed and said, "You sound like my boss," referring to the man that just gave Dalton $17 million in the last four days, Bengals president Mike Brown.
But Lewis liked Jackson's plan. And Jackson got the look they wanted.
"That's the play that was in and it's good to go out and execute it," Dalton said. "That's what you want to do in the first preseason game."
Dalton got pressure on the play from his blindside, but he hung in long enough to see Green burning the cornerback in the middle of the field.
"That's how Hue is," Dalton said. "Regardless of who's in there up front, he expects guys to block them and outside you have guys go make plays. I think that's one thing you can take from today. Just a buch of different guys made plays offensively. That was fun to see."
When Green lined up, he knew they had it. The Look they need to go long.
"The corners were lined up outside, so we just ran at them (inside) and the safety didn't do anything," Green said. "I thought I was by myself. I ran away from the corner. I didn't think the back-side safety was there."
Green also caught a crisp nine-yard sideline route to end his evening as the Bengals leading receiver on 62 yards.
"We ran it well and passed it," Green said. "A good start."
Dalton thinks he came within a whisker of converting the third-and-nine on the last play of the drive. He had wide receiver Mohamed Sanu over the middle, but he also had pressure and threw it behind him.
"I wish I could have held on to it a little longer," Dalton said. SLANTS AND SCREENS:The old war horse rides again. Robert Geathers, who missed all last year, feels like a rookie and he got a sack and strip to celebrate his return.
With 136, Geathers has the most Bengals games of anyone on the roster. But The Dean felt like a kid again Thursday night after he missed all but two games last season with torn triceps. After his play led to a touchdown on the game's second series, it was a special night.
"There's nothing like it," said Geathers with a smile, looking younger than the 31 he turns on Monday. "I had a lot of time at home last season. I felt like a rookie almost all over again with a break that long."
Geathers can play all four spots on the defensive line and on the series after he forced the fumble at right, he went over to the left end.
"We got a good push inside from Domata (Peko) and there was good coverage. I think he pumped it," Geathers said.
People want to know how the Bengals are going to replace right end Michael Johnson. This is how. Geathers replaced Wallace Gilberry on the second series. Then on that third series when he went to left, Dunlap moved over to right.
"We're going to roll through," Geathers said of the defensive line. "We lost Mike. We lost Coach (Mike) Zimmer. But it's the NFL. We have to move on…We expect to get better this year." ...
There is some concern about backup quarterback Jason Campbell. He racked up his throwing arm after he got hit in the pocket and he'll get a series of tests Friday...
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had an exciting three minutes in the first half. Kirkpatrick did everything right when he covered Kevin Huber's 43-yard punt late in the first quarter. As the gunner he beat the block and ran down field before everybody else, but instead of tackling De'Anthony Thomas on the right sideline just as he caught it, he bounced off him and Thomas steadied himself and ran left 80 yards for a touchdown.
Then early in the second quarter, Kirkpatrick climbed the ladder and made a leaping catch on backup quarterback Chase Daniel's overthrow of tight end Travis Kelce.
"I could have caught it," said head coach Marvin Lewis, but he did praise Kirkpatrick for being able to return it 40 yards for a touchdown.
"He overthrew him. I saw the tight end coming across. The ball came off his hand kind of funny. I was there," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm going to take presents. You give them to me, I'm going to take them."
On the punt, Kirkpatrick had a flash back.
"I was more concerned about him running into me and me getting a flag. We had a similar play in practice, but like I said, plays like that you just have to make." ...
Second-rounder Jeremy Hill had a solid debut with 36 yards on six carries. Nothing flashy. His longest run was nine yards, but he moved the chains. And that, he says, is all he's concerned with at the moment.
"Just continue to move the chains. For now," he said. "I definitely see myself being able to hit the home runs. But right now I'm really not focused on that. I'm just doing my job and moving the chains and that stuff will come…I think my running (style) will come out of my shell."
Hill was just as happy for his former LSU teammate James Wright. Wright, the rookie receiver taken in the seventh round, caught two balls, one for a nine-yard touchdown.
"He actually had more catches than he had all last season," said Hill of the goose egg. "That goes to show what type of receiver he can be if he just gets the opportunity." ...
Funny how things work. Wright comes in as a special teams maven and a question mark as a receiver. He had a key holding penalty on Dane Sanzenbacher's kick return past midfield in the last minute of the first half and instead of trying a field goal they had to take a knee...
Fourth-rounder Russell Bodine played all the first half with that patchwork line and looked to hold up OK against Chiefs' 350-pound nose man Dontari Poe. The Bengals averaged 4.2 yards per rush in the half. He did have one errant shotgun snap. It didn't seem off line all that much to quarterback Jason Campbell, but it appeared to be too hot to handle....
Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher is one of these textbook guys that plays the way they drew it up. On Thursday the Bengals showed they're quite serious about his kick returning abilities and he showed them he's just as serious about making it as a wide receiver.
Sanzenbacher is one of four wide receivers who scored touchdowns Thursday and the guy who caught the longest, A.J. Green and his 53-yarder, didn't get score. Sanzenbacher's touchdown came on a 26-yard catch where he smoothly beat the cornerback off the line of scrimmage and then finished it off with a dive in the end zone.
"It was a better job of Jason staying alive to make that throw," he said. "When I looked back, all I could see was him running for his life. He made the play, I just had to get in the end zone."
Sanzenbacher returned three kicks for an average of almost 30 yards and his longest, a 52-yarder, was cut back to 34 on James Wright's holding call. Brandon Tate, who is the prime returner, also had a touchdown. So did Wright, the special teams dynamo. It's hard for all three to make it.
"I think our room played pretty well," Sanzenbacher said. "A.J. played three plays and had a huge one. Across the board down to the fourth quarter guys continually stepped up and that's all we could ask for in the first preseason game."