Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict intercepted Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, ran 62 yards for a touchdown and then jumped into the stands at FedEx Field, waving gleefully at the opposing fans.
Burfict’s score summed up the start of the Bengals’ third preseason game: impressive and over the top. He wasn’t the only one who had big moments early on. For the first three drives of the game, the Bengals looked as impressive as it gets in what turned out to be a 23-17 Redskins victory.
The Bengals drove 96 yards on their first offensive possession. A.J. Green caught four passes for 43 yards and Jeremy Hill dove over the pile for a touchdown. The Bengals forced two three-and-outs on the Redskins' first two possessions, resulting in negative yardage.
Questions had surfaced regarding the Bengals' defense after its performance against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, but that same unit impressed against the Redskins. The Bengals forced a field goal after turning the ball over in their own territory, with rookie Carl Lawson swarming in to sack Cousins for an 8-yard loss. Burfict came up with his touchdown on the Redskins' next possession.
Overall, it wasn't perfect, but those first few drives showed off a team with potential when both units click at the same time.
QB depth chart: Andy Dalton played the entire first half, completing 8 of 13 passes for 70 yards. Backup AJ McCarron completed 7 of 13 passes for 82 yards but threw an interception that was returned 63 yards to Cincinnati's 34-yard line. Jeff Driskel completed 2 of 3 passes for 33 yards.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Bengals looked impressive: Rookie Joe Mixon impressed, juking Redskins cornerback Josh Norman on one particular play and finishing with eight carries for 31 yards. Green looked as good as he has all preseason.
Starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick made his preseason debut and didn't look rusty at all, contributing a sack off the blitz.
One reason to be concerned: The team couldn't keep up its pace out of the gate and everything stalled after the first few drives. The offense went backward when Dalton and Mixon botched a handoff and gained only 16 yards on the next two series.
The starting defense had some trouble stopping the run, particularly against Rob Kelley, who rushed 10 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.
That guy could start: Defensive end Chris Smith has done everything possible to ensure he has a spot on the Bengals' 53-man roster. Smith started training camp working against backups and slowly got more time in preseason games against the opposing first-team offensive line. Smith proved he could be the real deal and was credited with sacking Cousins in the first quarter.
Rookie watch: Lawson was quiet the past few weeks while nursing an injury, but he proved to be back in full force on Sunday. Lining up again at both linebacker and defensive end, Lawson proved he could be a much-needed boost to the Bengals' pass rush.
Bengals rookie first-rounder John Ross finally made his debut, and while he wasn't used much, Dalton did attempt a deep pass to Ross to try to utilize his speed. The wideout also had an 8-yard rush on a jet sweep.
Bit by the injury bug: Burfict’s big day ended after he injured his back several minutes before halftime. Burfict went to the locker room early and also was evaluated for a concussion. He passed the concussion tests but did not return.
Randy Bullock looks the part: If all things were equal, Bullock certainly would have won the starting kicking job by now. But the Bengals invested a fifth-round pick in Jake Elliott, which would not make parting with him easy, by any means.
Bullock has been the most consistent kicker throughout practice and is a perfect 5-for-5 during preseason games. He also has showed off a strong leg, making a 53-yarder on Sunday. Elliott missed his first kick of the preseason on Sunday, going wide right from 45 yards.