CHICAGO -- The Cincinnati Bengals got off to a slow start in Sunday afternoon's opener at Soldier Field, and finished even slower.
Here are a few of my thoughts on Cincinnati's 24-21 loss to the Bears:
What it means: For the fifth time in six tries, the Bengals dropped a season opener. The first weekend of the season, for whatever reason, hasn't been very kind to them in the recent years. Cincinnati went through the offseason with sky-high expectations, so its big postseason hopes take a bit of a hit with the defeat. Some who had penciled the Bengals into the Super Bowl likely will be falling off the bandwagon now. But it is early -- very early -- so there is plenty of time for the bandwagon to fill again if a turnaround comes.
Stock watch: Rising: Tyler Eifert. The stock on Eifert already was considerably high, but it was given a good jolt when he turned in a five-catch, 47-yard effort. Drafted 21st overall in April, the former Notre Dame standout proved that he was worth the first-round selection. Paired with Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals' two-tight-end formation worked better than anyone imagined.
Collins comes through: Forced into relieving Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, backup Anthony Collins came through for the Bengals. Although Cincinnati's offensive line allowed one sack, that sack didn't come because of anything Collins did wrong. Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was held in check by the six-year reserve.
Andy's attitude: When it came to passing, quarterback Andy Dalton showcased a more fearless demeanor than he has in years past. Often Sunday, he threw into tight windows, looking to connect with receivers who at times were either blanketed in single coverage or surrounded by multiple defensive backs. His favorite target in those situations was receiver A.J. Green, who snagged a couple of balls that were zipped into tight spaces. One of them came when Green jumped to catch a pass that had just enough height to get over a leaping defender's outstretched arm.
Although some good came out of Dalton's fearlessness, some bad came of it, too. On the Bengals' second play of the game, while trying to dart a quick-in pass to Green, Dalton was picked off by Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. Later in the first half, Tillman intercepted another pass when a narrow window caused Green to bobble a pass into Tillman's hands.
A.J.'s attitude: In addition to Dalton's fearlessness, Green had his own edge offensively. In all, Green caught nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. One of his receptions, a 42-yarder, was caught only when he accelerated the last 15 yards of the long pass play to break past his defender. Before the catch, he appeared to be in cruise control looking to glide underneath the ball. The adjustment led to a goal-line possession that Cincinnati converted into its first touchdown.
Keep cool: Cincinnati still had an outside shot with 1:06 remaining, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Rey Maualuga at the end of a second-down stop gave the Bears a first down that effectively ended the game. With both teams out of timeouts, the Bears were able to kneel down for the victory. Without the penalty, the Bengals still had time to get another stop before forcing a potential punt.
What's next: The Bengals (0-1) kick off their home schedule next weekend when division rival Pittsburgh comes to Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati enters the "Monday Night Football" game having lost seven of its past 10 games against the Steelers.