If the Bengals learned anything from their series of breakdowns in Thursday night's 27-13 preseason loss to Green Bay, it's that they have to step up their game in the red zone.
Cincinnati's defense failed to contain the quarterback again, allowing Aaron Rodgers to run for touchdowns of 12 and 5 yards in the first quarter. Defensive end Michael Johnson ran too far upfield to create a lane on the first touchdown, and defensive end Jamaal Anderson did the same thing on the second score.
The Bengals' starting offense struggled the entire game, especially when it had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Instead of punching the ball into the end zone, Cincinnati lost 11 yards. Andy Dalton threw an incompletion on first down (no one was open), Cedric Peerman lost 2 yards on second down (center Kyle Cook was pushed back to throw off the play) and Dalton was sacked on third down when Erik Walden came unblocked from the left side. The Bengals were 26th in red zone offense last season.
The first-team offense managed a first down on five of seven drives. That came against a Green Bay defense that ranked last in the NFL last season.
"I don’t think this game defines how we’re going to be during the year. It’s a preseason game," Dalton said after the game. "We’ve got to find ways to get motivated and get going. This film will be good to look at and see areas where we need to improve.”
Here are some other observations from the Bengals' third preseason game:
Dalton never had a chance to settle into the pocket and had to hurry on nearly every throw. He finished 5-of-17 for 40 yards. On third down, Dalton was 3-of-5 for 20 yards and was sacked twice for minus-17 yards.
Bengals cornerback Leon Hall looked sloppy and had a drive to forget on the second Packers offensive series. He should've been called for pass interference when he knocked into Jordy Nelson before the ball got to the Packers receiver at the Cincinnati 2-yard line. Hall followed that up by allowing a 19-yard catch to Greg Jennings and missed a tackle after an 18-yard reception by Jennings.
Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green made no impact after a long touchdown grab a week ago. He caught one of six passes thrown his way, though he didn't have any drops. Dalton should've been picked off when he underthrew Green on a fade route to the end zone in the second quarter.
Jeromy Miles, one of the team's core special-teams players, is making a late push to be the starting strong safety. Competing against Taylor Mays for the spot, Miles broke up two passes from Rodgers including a fourth-down throw to Jennings. This solid effort comes after recording six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in Atlanta last week.
Former Bengals running back Cedric Benson had a productive return to Paul Brown Stadium. He gained 38 yards on six carries (including an 11-yard run) and caught one pass for 10 yards.
One reason for the Bengals' disappointing play was the number of scratches before the game. Cincinnati had 16 players not suit up, including five starters (running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, tight end Jermaine Gresham, guard Travelle Wharton, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga) and their first-round pick from this year (cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick).