After consecutive games of quality play from the Cincinnati Bengals’ starters, the team took a large step backwards as the both the offense and the defense struggled to do anything in the 24-18 loss against the Dallas Cowboys yesterday.
The biggest difference between the team that was playing the previous two weeks and yesterday was turnovers. Coach Marvin Lewis is a big believer in winning the turnover battle which determines which team wins a majority of the time. Last night’s disaster with four turnovers reinforces Lewis’ mantra that who wins turnovers, wins the game.
Bengals’ receiver Marvin Jones fighting for control of a pass in first quarter against Dallas Cowboys. So far this preseason the Bengals are -3 in turnovers after three games thanks in part to the four turnovers the team gave up last night. The lone turnover the Bengals’ defense has been able to force was a Brandon Ghee interception in the first game against an Atlanta Falcon’s backup.
A cause for concern for the Bengals is the first team offense that hasn’t shown much of a downfield threat, and after the game against Dallas which is considered the dress rehearsal for the season, all that’s left is improvement.
Quarterback Andy Dalton connected on a 14-yard pass to Marvin Jones deep in Cowboys’’ territory before Jones fumbled the ball at the 4-yard line on the opening drive. It was the third fumble the Bengals lost during the preseason. Not long after, Dalton gave up his first interception of the game on a deep ball intended to Mohamed Sanu.
Things didn’t improve much from there, with Dalton finishing the night 12 of 16 for 113 yards and an interception. His passer rating was his lowest yet at 68.0. The running game wasn’t any better with only 44 yards on the night, with 30 of them coming in the third quarter. The defense wasn’t much better, but the team spent a lot of time on the field with the Cowboys having possession of the ball for more than 39 minutes. The first team defense was abused by quarterback Tony Romo who was 13 0f 18 for 137 yards and two touchdowns, with 6 of those passes going to Dez Bryant (6 catches 54 yards) who also had a touchdown while dominating Bengals’ cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Coach Lewis told Cincinnati Enquirer reporters how last night’s game will help the defense prepare for the season saying, “We’ve got to get to work and get our guys wind going to get ready for the opener. I thought it was a positive for the defense as they had to stay out there for a couple of long drives. Hopefully those are good opportunities for our defensive players to blow their pipes out pretty good.”
There were few bright spots during the game, one of those being a Brandon Tate 75-yard punt return for a touchdown on the second drive of the game. It was the second punt return for a touchdown by a Bengal’s player this preseason.
Coach Lewis thinks that the teams’ failures against the Cowboys will help bring his players down to earth with the surrounding hype that they have garnered after the their playoff season last year and being a part of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” throughout this preseason.
“Now, we can quit having all that smoke puffed up our butts and we can get to work,” coach Marvin Lewis said in the postgame. “There were some bright spots during the game. We did some things well but not enough, long enough.”