The Cincinnati Bengals won their first game of the preseason Sunday night without scoring an offensive touchdown, beating the Arizona Cardinals 19-13 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
After two impressive games by the first-team offense, the failure to get into the end zone in the dress rehearsal should not cause too much concern. Poor field position played a big role in the early struggles, and the Bengals eventually began moving the ball against the No. 6-ranked defense from a year ago, finishing the first half with 198 total yards.
There were a few other key items to take away from Sunday night’s game. Here is a list of five things we learned:
Hue on cue
As well as the first-team offense had played in its first two preseason games, scoring points on all four of its possessions, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told the team Saturday night that he hoped things would not be as easy against Arizona.
And they weren’t.
Jackson wanted to see how he and the team would react when plays weren’t working and drives and weren’t moving. After the first four series netted just 37 total yards and two first downs, the Bengals adjusted and strung together back-to-back scoring drives despite starting on their own 7 and 4 yard lines, stretching a 7-3 lead to 13-3 before halftime.
Newman living up to his name
Terence Newman doesn’t look or act like a guy who will turn 36 on Sept. 4, three days before he begins his 12th season in the league.
The remarkably fit and tirelessly playful cornerback – Newman was seen giving NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya “bunny ears” while she was conducting an on-camera interview with left tackle Andrew Whitworth – also doesn’t play like a tricenarian.
His 54-yard interception return for a touchdown marked the only time the Bengals visited the end zone all night, and it was his second pick in as many games.
His experience has been key in the development of young first-round cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, and if Newman keeps playing like this, it will keep the pressure off the young guys and allow them to learn at a more relaxed pace.
Sanu a legitimate No. 2
With no other real options, Mohamed Sanu was the logical choice to slide into the starting receiver spot opposite A.J. Green when Marvin Jones went down with a broken foot. But there were some questions whether Sanu could shake his possession receiver tag to stretch the field and make big plays.
For the second game in a row he proved he can. Andy Dalton targeted Sanu seven times (second only to Green’s eight), resulting in five receptions for a team-70 yards.
The third-year receiver from Rutgers has never caught more than six passes in a regular-season game, so the fact that he hauled in five while playing just one half was an encouraging sign that he can produce when defenses roll their coverages toward Green.
Dwindling depth is a concern
Two of the thinnest positions on the team suffered further attrition Sunday night as wide receiver James Wright (head) and offensive linemen Trey Hopkins (shin) and T.J. Johnson (undisclosed) left the field on a cart.
It’s hard to imagine any of those three healing in time with such a quick turnaround looming ahead of Thursday night’s preseason finale against Indianapolis. And the offensive line and wide receiver ranks could be further depleted today when the team must cut 11 players to trim the roster to 75.
The Bengals were without wide receiver Dane Sanzanebacher and right tackle Andre Smith in Arizona due to concussion protocol, so it’s unclear if they will be ready to go against the Colts.
Starters rarely play more than a series or two in the preseason finale, but the Bengals could be in the unenviable position of needing to re-enter them later in a meaningless contest if there any more injuries.
Hill will thrill
Rookie running back Jeremy Hill continued to impress while seeing his most action of the preseason against the Cardinals.
After logging nine carries for 52 yards in the first two games, the second-round pick from LSU got 12 carries and gained 48 yards, including a long run of 14.
He also was targeted five times in the passing game and finished with two catches for 10 yards, and it was no coincidence that an offense that had been struggling in the early going kicked into gear and produced back-to-back long drives for field goals once Hill entered the game.
He’s not going to supplant Giovani Bernard as the starter, but he is proving he is ready to make an immediate impact.
Colts at Bengals, 7 p.m., 102.7, 104.7