Andy Dalton was sacked by defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who stripped the quarterback and took away the fumble on the first third down the Bengals faced. But Cincinnati got great conversion passes from Dalton on two touchdown drives after that -- a 24-yard gain to Mohamed Sanu on a third-and-10 and a 10-yard pass to Sanu on a third-and-5. Sanu, making his bid for the No. 2 receiver spot while No. 1 A.J. Green (knee) is out, also made a pretty catch on a 2-yard fade for a score.
In their preseason opener, the Bengals got nothing out of two rookies they are counting on, running back Giovani Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert. Both showed what they can do in this game. Bernard got four straight touches to start the Bengals’ second drive, running for 9, 9, and 7 yards before taking a pass for 22 more. Dalton threw to him on the next snap as well, but it got knocked down at the line. Eifert broke open between three defenders to pull in a 25-yard reception from John Skelton in the second quarter. Eifert caught two other short balls.
The Bengals' pass rush didn’t get to starter Jake Locker or No. 2 quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The two sacks came late against third-stringer Rusty Smith. Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene and Locker averaged 4.4 yards a carry in the first half running behind a line the Titans expect to be a team strength.
Bubble receiver Dane Sanzenbacher shined last week. This week he made a 12-yard catch with rookie corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson on him tight. The throw from Josh Johnson got the Bengals into the red zone for a field goal that provided the final points of the game. Sanzenbacher also had a 16-yard punt return in which he picked up a ball that bounced beyond him and salvaged something.
Young running back Dan Herron made a bad decision late in the third quarter. He had a lot of room outside and was on course for it moving to his right. But he inexplicably cut back into the middle, where there was a pile of traffic. He more than made up for it a few plays later. He started right, then bounced back left and went 40 yards for a touchdown. Titans right defensive end Scott Solomon was responsible for containing his side, but moved too far into the middle of the field and was victimized.
In Atlanta, penalties were a concern as the first-team offense committed three early on. Against the Titans, the Bengals were flagged six times for 48 yards, with just two for 25 yards in the first half. Tackle Andre Smith was flagged for grabbing the face mask on a play that started a small fight.
Taylor Mays got the start at strong safety a week after George Iloka got the nod. Iloka (wrist) didn’t play while Mays was in on four tackles. Rookie Shawn Williams led the team with 10 tackles and added one on special teams. He surely remains a contender for the starting slot. (Apologies for botching his production in an earlier version of this post.)