The Bengals opened the 2010 home pre-season with an entertaining victory over the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium.
Marvin Lewis should be happy with the results. The team was able to get plenty of tape on several players and escaped major injuries to players. As a bonus, they won the game, and looked pretty good doing it.
Things didn’t look good early as the Bronco starters, led by QB Kyle Orton, engineered two touchdown drives in the first quarter against the starting Bengals defense. Orton finished 8-of-13 for 84 yards and two touchdown passes, connecting for 12 yards with Eddie Royal and then hit Brandon Lloyd from six yards out.
Both drives, however, were aided by penalties on the defense.
Their first drive was kept alive when an Orton 3rd-down incompletion was negated by a roughing the passer call on Tank Johnson. They scored on their next play from scrimmage. The second scoring drive was enabled by a pretty questionable pass interference call on Leon Hall. Hall tipped the ball away from Jabar Gaffney at the last moment, and although any contact seemed incidental, the refs gave the Broncos 40 yards and a first down.
The Bengals regrouped and scored 17 unanswered points. Carson Palmer engineered an excellent 14-play drive to start the second quarter, ending with Cedric Benson’s one-yard plunge. Then J.T. O’Sullivan led a field goal drive made possible by Bernard Scott’s 48 yard run.
On Denver’s next possession, back-up QB Brady Quinn’s floater towards the sideline was snatched by CB David Jones who ran unmolested 24 yards to pay dirt. The defensive score put the Bengals on top 17-14 with just over two minutes to play.
Denver tied the score just before halftime with Mike Prater’s 28-yard field goal. Once again, Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer could point to penalties as the culprit for Denver’s success. This time, the defense was called for pass interference on a 3rd and 4 incompletion inside Denver territory. Rookie Johnny Sears was flagged.
The second half saw Bernard Scott again showcase his talents as the second-year man from Abilene Christian took a screen pass from J.T. O’Sullivan and scurried 46 yards, breaking tackles and juking defenders along the way. The drive stalled, forcing Cincinnati to settle for Dave Rayner’s 27-yard field goal.
After a muffed punt, Cincinnati set up shop at Denver’s 12 yard line. The drive ended in 4 plays with Rayner’s 33-yarder.
The Bengals got the ball again after another Denver punt, and J.T. O’Sullivan and Jordan Palmer shared the load in a 12-play drive capped off by James Johnson’s one-yard dive. Johnson, signed Wednesday, looked quick and powerful, finishing with 10 carries and 42 yards.
Another Rayner connection on the next drive, this one from 26 yards, effectively put the game away at 33-17 with 5:17 to go in the fourth quarter.
The next Broncos drive ended badly for them, as rookie QB Tim Tebow was sacked and lost the football at his own 34. DE Frostee Rucker rumbled into the end zone for the score, making it 39-17 pending the extra point. Denver’s coach Josh McDaniels challenged the call, and it was overturned as Tebow’s arm was moving forward.
The Bengals took over after Tebow was tackled for no gain on fourth down, but didn’t score despite excellent field position as Jordan Palmer’s 4th-and 4 pass fell incomplete.
Tebow took over at the Bronco 27 yard line with 1:09 to go. Against 2nd and 3rd-stringers, Tebow led a feverish drive, which ended with his collision at the goal line with Safety Kyries Hebert as time expired. Tebow broke the plane, giving Denver another seven points.
Final score: Cincinnati 33, Denver 24.
For the Bengals, there was a lot to like about the game:
- The first team offense looked much improved. Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco were both involved in the offense early. Cedric Benson ran hard, and rookie TE Jermaine Gresham got into the action, getting 3 catches for 37 yards.
- The first team defense was also solid. Eliminating the penalties will be the big challenge for the coaching staff. Penalties led to all of Denver’s first half points, and generally came from the aggressiveness of Bengal defenders. The defense also got a score in the game, and almost had two.
- Kyle Cook looked to be the only starter to get dinged, but early indications were he’d be okay. Rookie Reggie Stephens looked powerful in relief.
- Rookie DT Geno Atkins continues to impress. The former Bulldog from Georgia got 1.5 sacks.
- Jerome Simpson finally showed a little something, and evened the score with Matt Jones for the last WR spot on the roster.
- Picking the punt returner for 2010 will be a very tough call. Adam Jones and Jordan Shipley both impressed, and just when you think Quan Cosby is on the ropes, he responds with a whopping 30 yard average on two punt returns.
- Back-up QB’s looked better: O’Sullivan finished 7 of 15 for 118 yards and no picks. Jordan Palmer finished 1 for 3. Neither will let us forget Carson, but they both engineered scoring drives. By the way, my money is still on Jordan.
- Bernard Scott is showing what he can do. If Bob Bratkowski doesn’t get this kid the ball in space he should be fired. If this team can figure out how to consistently run screen passes, Scott should remind us of a young James Brooks.
- Kicking Game was good. Rayner and Nugent both looked good, although Rayner shanked his first attempt from 44 yards. Nugent was perfect in handling just the extra points, though he had better kick-offs than Rayner. Long-snappers Mike Windt and Clark Harris were effective, and Windt recovered the muffed Denver punt. Huber had a couple bad kicks but was solid overall. Return teams were excellent and coverage teams were good.
On the negative side, the team continues to struggle with penalties, and this will no doubt be a focus in the four days the team has before Friday’s home game against Philadelphia. They looked shaky on 3rd down and CB Leon Hall got abused on the second Denver scoring drive. The offensive line’s protection was better but still needs to improve.
Overall, it was a much better performance from the men in stripes. The fan base should feel better about the team after this one, as it was more like what we’ve been expecting.