When the Bengals break down the film of Sunday night's preseason loss to the New York Jets, Marvin Lewis and company will see some improvements made from last week's game with Detroit. Unfortunately, they'll also see plenty of places where the team didn't execute. The team turned the ball over three times in a sloppy (weather and play) 27-7 loss to the Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
One of the goals for the Bengals going into Sunday's contest was to keep Andy Dalton upright. The line did a much better job of protecting Dalton, keeping him from being sacked by a blitzing Jets defense in a half's work. Dalton, however, did his best Edinson Volquez impersonation, struggling out of the gate. Four of Dalton's first seven passes wound up incomplete. Of the other three, Jordan Shipley hauled in a seven yard reception and the other two ended up in the hands of Jets defenders, leading to 10 New York points. Dalton also fumbled deep in his own end, losing 17 yards before recovering it. Kevin Huber, who made more appearances tonight in New York (9) than many Broadway actors, punted the Bengals out of the shadow of their own goalpost. Huber was once again the star of the game for the Bengals, averaging 47 yards per punt. The line also struggled with a ton of pre-snap penalties which won't help in Dalton's development.
With three minutes left in the first quarter, the Bengal offense finally found its stride as Dalton led the team on an 11-play, 70 yard drive for the team's first touchdown of 2011 when Brian Leonard plunged in from a yard out. Leonard also caught a screen pass on the drive that went for 33 yards, the longest play from scrimmage for the offense in two games. Dalton finished completing eight of 19 passes for 86 yards and the two picks. To be fair, the weather was less than ideal, and at least one of his picks, Eric Smith's, should have been caught by AJ Green, who never seemed to adjust to the wet conditions, catching only one ball for eight yards.
To Jay Gruden's and Andy Dalton's credit, they didn't shy away from throwing at New York's All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis did his part, however, allowing only one catch by a receiver he was defending.
The Bengals running game was non-existent. Cedric Benson carried seven times for only 14 yards. Brian Leonard had a little more success, averaging three yards per carry and scoring the lone touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mike Zimmer has to be much happier with his first team's performance. Given the Bengals inability to mount drives and turnovers giving the Jets a short field, the defense more than held its own. The defense held the Jet running game to 10 yards on seven carries throughout most of the first half while also putting significant pressure on Mark Sanchez. The linebacker play was particularly improved, getting in the backfield to make plays while also handling their responsibilities in space.
But one play toward the end of the half turned the tide. Backed up at their own one yard line by a beautiful Kevin Huber punt, Sanchez found tight end Dustin Keller for a 43 yard gain. He would hit Keller again for 15 yards, converting a third and six and finish the drive with a 26 yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress on a third and ten.
With under minute left in the first half, Marvin Lewis opted to have Dalton twice take a knee and head to the locker room. This was a curious decision in a preseason game with time left to practice the two-minute drill.
The second half didn't lend itself to seeing much. Bruce Gradkowski was three of seven with an interception which set up the Jets final score. After the game, Marvin Lewis was upbeat.
"It's going to be a dogfight for us, we know it. We have a few days to improve on this showing."
Lewis was referring to Thursday night's game at Paul Brown Stadium against the Carolina Panthers. With the Georgetown in the rearview mirror, the Bengals will return to PBS tomorrow to watch film and begin preparation for the Panthers. Sunday was far from a perfect evening for the Bengals, but they leave New York in good health and with some good football on which to build.
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