Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons called his shot the second Dallas punter Chris Jones's first kick of Saturday night scraped the scoreboard hanging above the middle of the field at AT&T Stadium in the middle of the first quarter of a scoreless game.
That meant a do-over. For Simmons, that almost always means certain disaster for the offending team. And wide receiver Brandon Tate delivered the mayhem, all 75 yards of it, for the second Bengals punt return touchdown of the preseason.
(Tate, by the way, has had a heck of preseason. Universally seen as the fourth receiver with Andrew Hawkins (ankle) shelved, he came into the game leading all Bengals receivers, but didn't get a catch with A.J. Green getting back a majority of the snaps.)
Tate, who didn't have a TD last season in the return game after a big 2011, made a simple move. He went straight for about five yards before he kept veering right and found the sideline.
"Darrin always tells us that nothing good happens for the punt team on a re-kick, and we made them pay," Tate said. "I give all the credit to the other 10 guys out there with me. Everybody blocked it perfectly, and all I had to do was find the hole and shoot through it. Nobody really had a good shot at me."
DEFENSE DREADS TAPE: After its worst outing of the season, the defense knows it is going to get hammered by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer following Sunday's day off. The Bengals not only gave up nine of 16 third downs, but they missed a slew of tackles and allowed the top two Cowboys quarterbacks—Tony Romo and Kyle Orton—to sift them on 17 of 22 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
"You learn from it; especially from Zimmer," said WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict. "He's going to go in the film room and show who did what wrong and point it out. Playing under him, you don't want to mess up two times in a row. Especially the same thing.
"That's a good team out there. Tony Romo extends plays. I don't know if we played with focus today. We had some good plays, but on third down we came up short."
The defense didn't have everyone. The unit's top two left ends, Carlos Dunlap (concussion) and Robert Geathers (shoulder) didn't play and SAM linebacker James Harrison didn't play with an unknown ailment, but it had enough. The most disturbing thing was what Romo did to that first secondary and second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
With Adam Jones (rib) and Brandon Ghee (concussion) out, Kirkpatrick, a 2012 first-rounder, was tapped to play third corner and he really struggled. Romo immediately went after him and Orton kept it going in the second half. Kirkpatrick was flagged for his coverage twice on third down and was trying to defend Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant on his five-yard touchdown catch on third-and-goal that tied the game early in the second quarter.
Kirkpatrick wasn't allowed to meet the media after the game, indicating he had some concussion-like symptoms. He missed two games last season because of a concussion.
"I like the way we started he game. We started fast and Coach has been preaching to us that we started slow in the first two games," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "We have a lot of stuff to clean up."
Safeties Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams didn't appear to make a move on the depth chart and George Iloka, sidelined with a broken hand. Mays was working on wide receiver Miles Austin when Romo drilled a 12-yard touchdown pass on third-and-10 along the back of the end zone. Williams, along with Kirkpatrick and linebacker J.K. Schaffer, missed running back DeMarco Murray on his seven-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the third quarter.
"I thought I played it OK at first," Mays said of the Austin TD. "Then he started running away from me around the back line in the end zone. It's a play we had seen in practice. I have to go back and look. I'm sure Coach will coach me. The only good thing about it is it's preseason.
"We've got a tough defense. We just have to get better. We made some mistakes. But I feel like the mistakes we made were things we've done well ... that was a really good test for us. At the same time we have a lot potential. We have a lot of work to do. ... For me and everybody on the defense we have to be consistent every single down."
Certainly on third down, where Romo converted five of nine in the first half.
"You kind of get the feeling that everyone has been praising us. We were the best defense. Blah-blah-blah," Peko said. "It kind of gets you back to reality. I'm excited it happened to be today and not in Chicago. It was good to get us back to reality. And what you have to do now is go back to work, put your nose down and start grinding."