Already shorthanded, the Cincinnati Bengals lost some players Sunday night at Jacksonville and ultimately lost the game when the Jaguars scored 23 unanswered points for a 26-21 triumph at EverBank Field.
Here are seven things to know about the loss:
Injuries an issue again
It started in pregame warmups when cornerback Adam Jones suffered a calf strain that kept him from playing, then on the second offensive series wide receiver A.J. Green left with what a Bengals official called up a “banged up knee.”
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said after the game that Green would have stayed in and played had it been the regular season, and Jones said he would have played through his calf injury as well.
The news was not as positive for running back Cedric Peerman, the third Bengals Pro Bowl player to go down in Jacksonville. Peerman, who made his first Pro Bowl last year as a special teamer, suffered a fractured left forearm on a tackle by Davon House.
The injury is expected to keep Peerman out for an extended amount of time, which would be a big blow for the Bengals. Although Peerman didn’t have a single carry or reception last year, he led the team with 17 special teams tackles.
Defensive dominance continues
The first-team defense continued to impress with its third consecutive quality outing of the preseason. After recovering a fumble on the Jaguars’ first offensive series, the Bengals forced back-to-back three-and-outs.
The starters played six series and prevented Jacksonville from getting a first down on four of them.
Even the six-play, 60-yard drive the Jaguars put together on their fourth possession was a plus for the Bengals as they held Jacksonville to a field goal after the hosts had first and goal at the 5.
The Jaguars had just 90 total yards and five first downs in the first half.
In 10 series this preseason, the Bengals defensive starters have allowed 221 yards and six points with two sacks, two forced fumbles and a recovery.
Erickson earning a spot
Whatever hope there may have been of sneaking undrafted wide receiver Alex Erickson through waivers and adding him to the practice squad likely evaporated Sunday night.
Erickson scored his third touchdown of the preseason on a 21-yard reception from AJ McCarron, and he had another big night on special teams with punt returns of 39 and 18 yards. In three games, Erickson has four punt returns for 167 yards (41.8 average), including his 80-yard touchdown in the opener against the Vikings.
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The 6-foot, 195-pounder also had an 8-yard carry on the first snap after he returned a kickoff 31 yards.
Backfield combination clicking
The tailback tandem of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard continued to produce chunk plays in both the running and passing game.
It started with the third offensive play of the game when Bernard caught a pass in the flat, got a couple of blocks and raced untouched for a 19-yard touchdown to start the scoring. He finished with 25 yards on two receptions and 27 rushing yards on just three carries.
Hill added a 28-yard reception on a screen pass and 21 rushing yards, including a nifty 1-yard touchdown where he broke it outside and beat a pair of Jacksonville defenders to the pylon.
Rare turnover costly
The Bengals committed their first turnover of the preseason, and it cost them the game when Jacksonville linebacker Hayes Pullard jumped a pass from Joe Licata to Michael Bennett and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.
The pick six came with 7:48 remaining and accounted for the final points of the game to cap Jacksonville’s comeback from a 21-3 third-quarter deficit.
That would be the last throw Licata would make as Coldwater High School graduate Keith Wenning took over after that and directed the final two series for the Bengals.
Thin tackle situation troubling
Already limited at tackle with Cedric Ogbuehi (toe) and Jake Fisher (ankle) out, things got even thinner when backup center T.J. Johnson left to get evaluated for a concussion. Johnson’s absence forced Trip Thurman to play center instead of tackle.
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Jacksonville’s ability to get pressure off the edge against the Bengals second- and third-team tackles was a big reason why the Cincinnati offense stalled in the second half and the Jaguars rallied for the win.
It’s doubtful starting tackle Andrew Whitworth will play Thursday against Indianapolis, and the same goes for Ogbuehi and Fisher, even if they are healthy.
That could make for a long night for Wenning and Licata if Lewis decides, as expected, not to play Dalton while also limiting McCarron’s snaps.
Interior line impressive
One of the reasons running backs Hill and Bernard had such strong showings was the play of guards Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler and center Russell Bodine.
The interior of the Bengals offensive line dominated Jacksonville for most of the first half, with one of the best plays coming on Bernard’s touchdown reception as Boling sprinted to the flat to lay the springing block on Jacksonville cornerback Josh Evans.
Boling also had a key pulling block on Bernard’s longest run of the night, an 11-yarder. And Zeitler made a good pulling block on Hill’s longest run of 8 yards.