Cincinnati Bengals: 5 takeaways from preseason loss to Washington

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Thaddeus Moss (81) is tackled by Washington Football Team strong safety Landon Collins (26) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Caption
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Thaddeus Moss (81) is tackled by Washington Football Team strong safety Landon Collins (26) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Credit: Nick Wass

Credit: Nick Wass

The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t leave Washington with as bad of a taste as they did in Week 11 last year, when they lost Joe Burrow to a season-ending ACL and MCL tear, but they did suffer their first loss of the preseason.

Cincinnati got off to a slow start offensively and lost a defensive battle Friday, as Washington took a 17-13 win at home.

The Bengals were coming off a strong win to open the preseason against the defending Super Bowl champions. Now they prepare for the final tuneup to the regular season Aug. 29 at home against Miami.

Here are five takeaways from the loss:

1. Offense out of rhythm

The Bengals had just two of their 13 first downs in the first half, as the offense got off to a slow start. Brandon Allen started at quarterback with Burrow not active, and Allen completed 8 of 17 passes for 70 yards and had one rushing touchdown through the first drive of the third quarter before exiting.

Penalties early on set Cincinnati back, including a hold on left guard Quinton Spain the first play and a false start by right tackle Riley Reiff that same drive.

“Out of rhythm – that’s the key thing for me,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters in Washington, during a postgame press conference aired on Twitter. “Early on, we had a penalty on the first play of the game that set us back. And they just played some man coverage on critical downs and you’ve got to throw and catch, and we don’t throw and catch. ... Again, we don’t convert those third downs early on, it’s hard to get into a rhythm and get a chance to do a lot of things that we wanted to do on the call sheet and that was that was unfortunate. That was frustrating.”

On the first play of the fourth quarter, second-half starting quarterback Kyle Schurmur was sacked at the Bengals’ 30-yard line and lost the football. Washington took advantage of the short field to gain a 17-10 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion.

All the Bengals could get after that was a 50-yard field goal from rookie Evan McPherson. Quarterback Eric Dunegy was short on a fourth-and-2 run with 2:44 left and the defense couldn’t get the ball back in the hands of the offense for another try.

2. Chase drops the ball

Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has struggled with drops this training camp and he dropped all three of the passes thrown his way Friday. Taylor said he’s still not worried about it, but the Bengals have one preseason game left before the opener Sept. 12, and the team put a lot of faith in him as the No. 5 draft pick.

“We’ve just got to continue to work on it every single day,” Taylor said. “It’s key that our receivers do a great job focusing catching the ball. He’s getting better every day in a lot of the other details that maybe go unnoticed. So, we’ll just keep looking for improvement there.”

3. Defense shines again

The Bengals held Washington to three field goals on their first three trips to the red zone, and the one touchdown came after the turnover set up a short field.

Logan Wilson forced a fumble after a catch, and nickel corner Mike Hilton recovered to put the ball on the Washington 35-yard line, setting up a 37-yard field goal for McPherson for the 3-0 lead in the first quarter.

“I thought the defense did a nice job,” Taylor said. “(First three drives) they held them to a punt, had a turnover on downs (with a) big fourth-down stop there right in that red zone fringe, and then had the fumble that got them off the field there in the high red zone as well so critical stuff from our defense.”

Jalen Davis, Winston Rose and Marcus Bailey were among the standoutstrying to earn jobs.

Darius Phillips tipped a pass late in the second quarter that Bailey almost picked off, needing a review to overturn the initial interception call, but that third-down incompletion led the Hogs to settle for a field goal. After the near interception, Rose forced Cam Sims out of bounds on a would-be catch before he could get his feet down in the end zone. Davis had two tackles for loss and was solid in coverage, and Bailey almost had another interception.

4. Defensive line depth still a concern

For the second straight game a rookie defensive end suffered an injury. Cam Sample was ruled out in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury that Taylor described as minor. Last week, Joseph Ossai suffered a wrist injury that was believed to be broken.

Sample has shown flashes in camp and was getting lots of opportunities Friday on the edge after spending some time last week playing inside. Part of that was the lack of depth on the outside, where the Bengals are trying to find sort out rotational options.

“He’s a versatile guy that when we drafted him we thought he could play multiple roles for us,” Taylor said. “We saw that in the first game and that’s something that we continued.”

Taylor said the young players are getting a lot of opportunities as those position battles need sorted.

5. Offensive line still undecided

Spain once again started at left guard, but instead of Michael Jordan at right guard, veteran Xavier Su’a-Filo started as the Bengals are still looking at options there. Taylor said not to read into the starting offensive line positions in the first couple preseason games.

While there were some struggles early, there were some bright spots for the offensive line. Rookie Jackson Carman paved the way for Allen’s touchdown run from the 1-yard line, and the line allowed just one sack. The Bengals finished with 111 yards rushing.

“The linemen, I thought there’s some good things we did the run game,” Taylor said. “You know it’s not going to be easy against that front. That’s why it’s critical to get the drive going and get some momentum and then hit some runs on them. … It all ties together with the runs and the passes, and I thought that we had some opportunities in the run game, but we just didn’t get enough of them.”

SUNDAY, AUG. 29

Dolphins at Bengals, 4 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7