For Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and the first teamers on offense and defense, it was nearly a perfect night as the Bengals played host to the New York Jets on Aug. 16 in their second exhibition game of 2014. Unfortunately, when Dalton’s gang exited the game so did any perfection as the team’s backups, fighting for roster spots, turned in a dismal performance. A 17-3 lead achieved by the number 1’s dissolved into a 25-17 defeat to a feisty group from the Big Apple.
“We did a good job with the first groups on offense and defense, so obviously I am happy with that,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis to reporters after the game. “We want to see that every time out and Andy looked very sharp.”
Dalton was not just sharp, he was perfect, going 8 for 8 for 144 yards and a touchdown, a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating. The first team offense stayed in the game for three drives and produced 17 points. The highlight of the night was a perfectly placed 43-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in the first quarter.
The first team defense held up well, holding the Jets to three points, meaning that going back to last season’s regular season game, the Bengals’ regulars had outscored those of the Jets, 66-12. The New Yorkers and Coach Rex Ryan hadn’t forgotten last year’s debacle as they came into the Queen City with a chip on their shoulders, picking up 12 penalties, seven of those for unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls. The Cincinnati coaching staff was also unhappy after reviewing the film at how many blitzes Ryan and his defense threw at the Bengals backups.
“We’re not here to take anything from anybody,” said Ryan in the post game. “We want to be a clean, physical football team and that’s what we plan on being.”
What went bad for the home team was everything after the first team left the field early in the second period. Backup quarterback Matt Scott, playing in place of the injured Jason Campbell, was abysmal, completing just 5 0f 14 passes for 29 yards and being sacked three times.
The second team defense performed poorly as the Jets ran all over them, with the defensive front not getting any push at all. Special teams were also a concern as the group drew five penalties and allowed a punt to be blocked for a New York safety. That’s not a good effort from players who are battling to be part of the final 53-man roster with special teams performance being a critical component in those decisions.
The injury bug is also starting to creep up on the Bengals, testing the depth that the team had built up. Wide receiver Marvin Jones is out indefinitely with a broken foot while tight end Tyler Eifert missed Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. Backup running back Rex Burkhead, in a position battle, left the stadium on crutches with a knee brace in sight. The team’s top toe draft picks also left Saturday’s game with injuries, cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hip) and running back Jeremy Hill (shoulder).
All of the team’s issues should begin to sort themselves out more clearly as the Bengals move to prime time this weekend with a Sunday night game in Arizona, facing a familiar face under center for the Cardinals in quarterback Carson Palmer. The critical third pre-season game is where most of the regulars will see their most extended playing time and those battling for roster spots get another opportunity to make a good impression on the coaching staff.
Kickoff Sunday night on NBC is set for 8 p.m.