The Cincinnati Bengals were looking to open with a statement win. They didn’t get the result they wanted Sunday but turned some heads while going toe-to-toe with the Seattle Seahawks.
Cincinnati carried a three-point lead into halftime and had chances to extend it but ended up falling short in a 21-20 loss on the road against a team that has made the playoffs six of the last seven years with two Super Bowl appearances and a title in 2013.
»PHOTOS: Bengals fall in season opener
After a Randy Bullock field goal made it a one-point game in the fourth quarter, the Bengals got the ball back with 21 seconds left for the potential game-winning drive, but Andy Dalton lost the ball while taking a sack and Cincinnati lost the challenge that the play should have been called an incomplete pass.
The game had its share of highs and lows. Here’s five things that stood out:
1. Ross comes through
Third-year wide receiver John Ross wanted to be more involved in the offense this season, and he delivered in his first appearance since December after missing the entire preseason with a hamstring issue.
Ross finished with 158 yards and two touchdowns, including a 55-yarder, on seven catches for a career day and is now just 52 yards short of his career total one game into the season. Although he did have some drops, his performance was exactly what the Bengals needed with A.J. Green out. Cincinnati hasn’t had another receiver besides Green put up those kinds of single-game numbers (yards and TDs) since Chad Johnson in 2007.
Dalton also ended up with a career day, throwing for 418 yards and two touchdowns. And that was while taking five sacks.
2. Running game stalls
Seattle’s dominant front seven proved too big of a challenge for the Bengals running game Sunday, as they managed just 34 yards on 14 carries, which ties for the eighth lowest number of rushing attempts in franchise history.
Joe Mixon suffered a left ankle injury in the third quarter and finished with 10 yards on six carries, and Giovani Bernard had seven carries for 21 yards. Coach Zac Taylor said in his postgame comments he didn’t have an update on Mixon but the third-year running back sat beside him the entire fourth quarter.
The Bengals offensive line, which featured Andre Smith, rookie Michael Jordan Trey Hopkins, John Miller and Bobby Hart, still has its work cut out for it.
3. Missed opportunities
The Bengals went deep into Seattle territory three times in the third quarter without getting any points, and those were missed opportunities that came back to haunt them in the end.
Preston Brown forced a fumble that Dre Kirkpatrick recovered to put the Bengals on the Seahawks’ 28-yard line early in the quarter and Dalton ended up fumbling on a sack, which Seattle recovered.
On the next drive, Randy Bullock missed a 45-yard field goal. Then, Bernard was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Seahawks’ 36 with 2:01 left in the quarter. Seattle pulled ahead on a 44-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Bengals responded with a Bullock field goal to make it a one-point game but the fifth sack on Dalton with 14 seconds left ended the game.
Cincinnati lost three of four fumbles.
4. Defensive improves
Cincinnati has to feel pretty good about the defense holding Seattle to 21 points after the kind of numbers the Bengals were giving up last year.
Seattle finished with just 233 yards and 12 first downs. A running game that averaged 160 yards last year managed just 72 on Sunday as Chris Carson had 46 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.
The Bengals sacked Russell Wilson four times with second-year defensive end Sam Hubbard accounting for two of those and Carlos Dunlap and Dre Kirkpatrick had the other two. Kirkpatrick has just three career sacks.
5. Taylor off to good start
It’s too early to say the Bengals have improved, just one game into Taylor’s tenure, but fans had to take some enjoyment out of seeing Dalton put up those kinds of numbers and the defense to step up like it did Sunday.
Competing in Seattle, in front of the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field, isn’t easy and may have played a factor in some of the mistakes that were made but the Bengals come back home to host the 49ers in Week 2 and that should be another good chance to take steps forward.