The Bengals hit the road for the first time since the AFC Championship in January when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons on Friday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Cincinnati enters the game 0-1 in preseason, after a 36-19 loss at home to Green Bay last Friday. While head coach Zac Taylor acknowledged the offense's efficiency in putting together several extended drives, he felt the inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities proved to be the difference in the game. "Offensively, we didn't get the ball in the end zone at all," Taylor said. "Kicked some field goals, had the defensive touchdown, but ultimately, that's what we're judged on — protecting the football and getting the team in the end zone. Not enough of that tonight."
Defensively, the Bengals gave up 437 net yards (254 passing, 183 rushing), and allowed back-to-back Packers TD drives early in the first half that put Cincinnati behind 14-3. But perhaps the most optimistic performance in the loss came from second-year S Tycen Anderson, who grabbed two INTs in the second quarter alone including a 43-yard pick-six that proved to be the Bengals' lone score of the night. Anderson, a 2022 fifth-round pick who spent his entire rookie season on the Reserve/Injured list (hamstring), left a positive impression on his teammates and coaches in his first game action since last year's third preseason contest.
"I feel like a proud big brother, knowing what it meant for him losing all of last year, seeing him work, putting in the time and seeing what it's meant to him," said veteran S Michael J. Thomas. "To get in that first preseason game and have that type of game, those big plays — I know that feeling, I've been there before, so just proud of him."
"Anytime you see a guy make a play on the football and then score on defense, it's great," said defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. "He had two of them, which is good to see. Certainly enough stuff that he's got to clean up in the other part of the game, but we're happy with what we saw."
Splitting the reps at QB were Jake Browning and Trevor Siemian. Browning, a first-year pro who has spent the past two seasons on Cincinnati's practice squad, played the entire first half and went 10 of 17 for 95 yards with an INT. Siemian, who enters his ninth NFL season and first with the Bengals after joining the team as a free agent in May, came in for the second half and completed 15 of 28 passes for 121 yards and a pick
Browning and Siemian figure to receive a bulk of the work this week again, as Pro Bowl signal-caller Joe Burrow continues to rehab a strained calf. Taylor on July 28 told reporters that Burrow's recovery would take "several weeks."
Another bright spot in the preseason opener, in addition to Anderson, was the right leg of third-year K Evan McPherson. The fan-favorite converted each of his four FG attempts from distances of 38, 51, 39 and 43 yards, and he is now 18 of 19 on FGs in his preseason career.
A notable storyline for the remainder of training camp will be the competition at punter. Second-year pro Drue Chrisman, who took over the team's primary punting duties midway through the 2022 season, returned to full participation in practice on Sunday after missing time due to a medical issue. Rookie Brad Robbins, a sixth-round pick out of the University of Michigan, has handled Cincinnati's punting and holding responsibilities in the meantime. In his preseason debut, Robbins punted five times for 224 yards (44.8 average) with one touchback and one downed inside the Packers' 20-yard line.
"It's good to get out there in front of the crowd and get that first game under your belt," Taylor said. "I'm sure that there are some things that him and Darrin (Simmons) will be able to work on, but it's good to get out there and hold — first of all — for some of those good field goals. I thought that operation was really good. Then, a chance to watch the tape and work on some of the things that Darrin wants to work on."
The Falcons enter Friday's matchup 1-0 in preseason, after opening with a 19-3 win at Miami last Friday.