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Bengals first-teamers focused on finishing

The Cincinnati Bengals’ first-team offense has scored points on all four of its drives this preseason, but rather than pointing to what’s been produced, the players and coaches are fixated on the failings.

On the first drive of the preseason opener in Kansas City, quarterback Andy Dalton hit wide receiver A.J. Green a 53-yard bomb that gave the Bengals a first down at the Chiefs’ 13. But the team had to settle for a field goal after a short run and two incomplete passes.

Last week against the Jets, the Bengals found the end zone on their first two drives and had a 2nd-and-3 at the New York 23 on their third drive. But GiovaniBernard got stuffed on 3rd-and-1, forcing Cincinnati to settle for a field goal.

“We should make 3rd-and-1,” offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. “With this football team, we have to. We’ll get to the bottom of that.”

Jackson’s mantra since taking over as coordinator for Jay Gruden has been “finish.” Finish the play, finish the drive, finish the game.

“Hue is definitely a big ‘finish’ guy,” rookie center Russell Bodine said.

The Bengals were able to finish their second drive Saturday night when it appeared they may not. On third and goal at the 1, Bernard got stood up. But he kept his legs churning and the offensive line kept pushing until Bernard crossed the goal line.

“I think the effort was on display,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “The tenacity and mentality of it doesn’t matter how pretty the play is, it matters that we get in the end zone, and everyone doing everything possible to do that. It was pretty impressive going back and watching it on tape. You literally had almost all 10 guys on the field pushing in the pile digging.”

But on the next drive, it was a 3rd-and-1 failing that not only forced the Bengals to settle for a field goal and a 17-3 lead instead of 21-3, it served as a lasting impression because it was the last play the first-team offense ran.“If we hadn’t screwed up the other 3rd-and-one I thought we could have scored again,” Jackson said. “We’ll definitely fix it. We’ll look at how we called it, how we blocked it.

“Overall it was a good start, but we’ve got to play like that all the time. We have to keep grinding.”

The first-team offense will get its most extended look of the preseason Sunday night in Arizona as Dalton and Co. look to extend the most productive preseason of his young career.

Last year Dalton directed 10 drives in the preseason and led the Bengals to three scores (two touchdowns, one field goal). In 2011 he was in for 12 drives, six of which resulted in points (one touchdown, five field goals). And during his rookie year, Dalton piloted 21 series, with six resulting in points (three touchdowns, three field goals).

So going 4 for 4 in terms of scoring points and 2 for 4 when it comes to touchdowns is an encouraging start. But as far as the team is concerned, that’s all it is — a start.

“I’m glad we’ve played pretty good football, pretty sound football,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “But what we did the first two weeks really doesn’t matter now, and it won’t matter a bit in September.”

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