LANDOVER, Md. - Zac Taylor’s first victory as Bengals head coach Thursday night was certainly resourceful by a 23-13 count over Washington in which rookie Tristan Vizcaino’s 57-yard field goal and veteran punt returner Alex Erickson’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter supported a defense that allowed just one score and overcame an oh-for-night by the Bengals first offense.
“Defensively we did a nice job,” Taylor said. “We played with more energy. We asked them at halftime, let’s create turnovers and be great tacklers. And we came out and did that.”
But his thoughts were back in the first quarter, when the offense could run just 11 plays in three series while picking up six penalties.
“This week wasn’t quite good enough. We’ve got a lot to improve on,” Taylor said. “That first drive, I don’t know how to feel about it. Very disjointed. Too many penalties.”
Try seven on the first seven snaps, three of them holds by the Bengals. After 11 penalties five days ago in the opener, they had 12 Thursday. Quarterback Andy Dalton could only manage five of nine passing for 35 yards and when it looked like he had led them to another opening drive touchdown on third-and-7, an 11-yard touchdown pass to the available rookie running back Trayveon Williams, a hand came out from the mass up front and tipped it to turn it into a 96-yard pick-six.
“You get a great play call, the ball goes exactly where it needed to go,” Dalton said. “It just shows you it’s a game of inches. You never know how it’s going to happen. (Williams) ran a great route.
“It was kind of weird. It was tough to get in a rhythm. Too many penalties. We gave to correct those mistakes. We can’t have those penalties.”
It was a tough one for Taylor, too.
"So your feeling goes from about to score a touchdown on the first drive of the game to all of the sudden we are down 6-0, that’s a tough way to start," Taylor said. "So, you know, I just thought our guys just needed to rebound better on offense, take control, not so many penalties and get the ball moving."
- Kerry Wynn, the six-year veteran from the Giants who gives them such a presence at both defensive end and tackle as well as special teams, made his Bengals debut count. In the second half he had a sack, recovered a fumble at the Washington 25 that led to the tying touchdown, had three tackles and two hits on the quarterback.
After the game he grabbed the fumble ball from his locker, which was taped with the message, “I love you,” and planned to give it his grandmother before getting on the bus. Miss Lilly Smith, who lives in Virginia, turned 79 the day before.
“I said, ‘Grandma, what do you (want) for your birthday?’” Wynn said. “She said all she wanted was a sack and a good game. I had to play well for her.”
- Even though the Bengals botched three punts on Saturday, nobody would have thought Erickson would have been out there in the fourth quarter. He already had returned two Thursday. But there he was as the clock ticked under 6:30.
“I was the only one left,” Erickson said. “Darius (Phillips) and Quint (Flowers) were both hurt.”
Erickson loves this stuff. This how he made the team three years ago. He also had a big third down catch in the Bengals’ first scoring drive.
“There was a great wall set up, I got past the corner,” Erickson said. “I was able to cut back on the punter and out run one guy. Any time you return a punt there’s good blocking.”
Taylor insisted the Bengals haven't given up on Phillips, who didn't return punts Thursday but had three good kick returns for a total of 88 yards.
"Yup, we got confidence in Darius. He's still a young player, he’s improving," Taylor said. "Obviously we had some miscues last week but he had a good week in practice which I think everybody saw and then he bounces back. You know you have just got to keep picking these guys up and have confidence in them. I think Darius knows that we do and he had a great return there to start the game. That was good to see from him and Alex is just a guy to get back over the hump and get the confidence back. He's a good return guy and we’ll keep giving him a look."
- Rookie tight end Drew Sample had a much better day than his opener. He had two catches, one for a five-yard TD from rookie Ryan Finley.
“Get the first game jitters (out of the way),” Sample said. “Even the difference between college and the NFL, kind of knowing what was going to happen. That helped me. And another week of practice helped.”
_Sample was one of 14 Bengals that caught at least one ball. and one of six rookies. How interesting is the wide receiver derby? Without A.J. Green and John Ross, the kids are giving them a lot to think about. How about this for the leading receiver? Undrafted rookie Damion Willis had five catches for 59 yards and that didn't count his big one, a 35-yard bomb from Jeff Driskel where he flat out won the chicken fight with the hands to get behind the DB before going to the ground to make sure he had it. But it was wiped away by an offensive pass interference penalty, which is fast becoming this year's roughing the passer. If they call it enough, they might understand it.
"I hate that rule," said Willis, who thought he simply knocked down the defender's hand.
_Bengals radio voice Dan Hoard caught up with Vizcaino after the game and found a guy shrugging off his 57-yarder, tying it for the longest field goal in Bengals history, even though his longest ever at Washington in college was 44.
“Something like that,” Vizcaino said. “You can’t have the highest highs or the lowest lows. It’s the nature of the position I guess.”
Vizcaino told Hoard he’s hit a 70-yarder in practice, but he’s struggled at times in training camp. And he had pushed a 46-yarder right just moments before that had everything but direction.
“I was hoping for redemption,” he said. “Just looking for another chance.”