GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It took the Cincinnati Bengals three tries, but they finally walked away with a preseason win Sunday night when they knocked off the Cardinals 19-13 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
While the preseason primarily is about the players and their ability to impress coaches in order to earn spots on the 53-man roster, it is also about generating some cohesion, confidence, rhythm and momentum for the entire team entering the regular season. That's the main reason why coaches and players alike were desperate this week to claim a win after two fruitless attempts to start the preseason.
Thanks to the win, momentum was generated. Confidence? Perhaps it was instilled, too. Only time will tell. As for cohesion and rhythm, it seems the Bengals still have some work to do in those areas. At times Sunday they seemed very out of sync both offensively and on special teams. The no-huddle offense that was so fluid last week against the Jets was syncopated against the Cardinals. At times the first-team offense hummed smoothly along. At others, it had trouble getting settled into its normally quick tempo because of penalties and apparent issues with communication.
Here are a few more thoughts on the Bengals' preseason game Sunday:
We might as well extend the story line of Cincinnati's arrhythmic starting offense a little further. Here are two occasions when quarterback Andy Dalton didn't seem on the same page with his receivers. Once at the end of the first quarter, A.J. Green opened up to his left after running wide open into the flat. Dalton, seeing Green break open, threw over his right shoulder, clearly expecting the wideout to turn a different way. The pass fell incomplete and stalled a drive on third down. In the second quarter, tight end Jermaine Gresham cut off a route that Dalton proceeded to throw 15 yards downfield. The quarterback expected Gresham to extend the route. Some of the miscommunication could be attributed to the Bengals' mixing of lineups. Backups were inserted as early as the second play of the game as they rotated with starters for individual evaluation purposes.
In addition to their sporadic issues with rhythm, the Bengals had difficulty figuring out where and how to run the football early. Starter Giovani Bernard began the game dedicated to bouncing the ball to the edge. Those carries largely proved worthless. Of his 10 first-half carries, five went to the left and right edges. They gained just 3 yards. The other carries in the middle of the field resulted in 14-yard gains. Those runs came around the same time late in the second quarter when rookie Jeremy Hill came in as a backup. All four of his first-half carries went between the tackles. They amassed 23 yards. Power-run football is part of what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's new offense hinges on, and it's clear the Bengals were better Sunday doing that than when they went away from it.
Field position also was an issue for the Bengals who couldn't seem to get out of the shadows of their own end zone. Of the 10 drives they had, seven started at their own 20 or inside it. Of those, four began inside the 10-yard line. With poor field position, the Bengals' starters had trouble moving the football and converting third downs. They were 4-for-15 on third down.
As it has for most of the preseason, the Bengals' defense was sound. The starters primarily played through the second quarter, allowing just one Arizona field goal in their time on the field. The base first-team defense has now allowed just four field goals in its three preseason games. Among the defenders of note: defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who saw extended action for the first time this year after returning from an ACL injury from last season.