- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It has been seven months and 20 days since the Cincinnati Bengals' first-team defense has given up a touchdown in a game of any kind.
Yes, the offseason occupied a good chunk of that time, but the broader point is this: In roughly four and a half quarters of play this preseason, the Bengals' starters on defense have yet to allow an offensive player to cross a goal line.
"I didn't realize that until you told me, honestly," safety George Iloka said to a reporter from inside the Bengals' locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium late Sunday night.
Iloka and the rest of Cincinnati's defensive starters had just wrapped up another touchdown-less performance that aided in the Bengals' 19-13 win over the Cardinals in their third preseason game. The lone touchdown Arizona scored came in the third quarter, long after Cincinnati's first-teamers had left the field at halftime.
As Iloka adjusted the buttons on his white-trimmed navy Ralph Lauren suit jacket, he flatly added that he and the rest of the Bengals' starters can't read too far into the relative success the unit has had to this point in the very early season.
"We know the real test comes in the season," Iloka said. "That's when it counts. It's good and it's good for your morale, but the Baltimore Ravens are a whole other animal."
To be clear, he wasn't insinuating that the Cardinals' offense can't compete with the Ravens'. He was referring to the Bengals' season opener at division-rival Baltimore on Sept. 7.
Cornerback Terence Newman was one of the defensive players who played well at just the right moment Sunday.
After getting burned twice by receivers who sprinted by him only to get overthrown by Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, Newman had the play of the night for the Bengals when he picked off a pass and returned it 54 yards for a mid-first-quarter touchdown. There appeared to be confusion between Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who proceeded to run a Go route while Palmer thought he was going to cut it off and finish the route underneath.
Newman, who guessed wrong once on one of the previous overthrows, stopped on this particular pass, guessing that Palmer was going to dump it short. When Palmer did, he threw the ball right into Newman's hands.
"It wasn't like I did anything," Newman said. "Just an errant throw on his part."
The 54-yard return was the only touchdown the Bengals had in the game. It, and four field goals, were just enough to hold on for the win.
Only two plays really bugged the Bengals' first-team defenders after the game. Cardinals running back Andre Ellington broke one run for 24 yards early in the second quarter, and Fitzgerald exploded for 44 on a slant that was thrown into a soft spot in the Bengals' coverage. Other than those two plays, the Bengals felt good about their overall performance. When Fitzgerald had the big pickup, Iloka said he and his teammates were stunned.
"We were telling ourselves, 'Really?'" Iloka said.
Remove those two plays and the Cardinals would have netted negative yards in the first half. Without those 68 yards, they would have been at minus-10 through the first two quarters.
"It's the preseason," Newman said, giving a reminder not to think too deeply about these numbers. "We need to keep that up when it gets super serious. When we have actual wins and losses on the table."