The Cincinnati Bengals saw some improvement from the first-team offense in the longest amount of playing time the starters will get this preseason, but the New York Giants won the battle of the backups.
A two-point conversion was the difference, as the Bengals fell 25-23 in their third preseason game Thursday at Paul Brown Stadium – the first home game for new head coach Zac Taylor.
»PHOTOS: View images from the game
The first-teamers gave the Bengals a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter when Andy Dalton connected with C.J. Uzomah on a 26-yard pass to the end zone. That was all Taylor needed to see, as the first-team offense gave way to backups after that.
The defense had forced a turnover on downs — with help from Geno Atkins and Carl Lawson applying pressure to Giants quarterback Daniel Jones — to give the Bengals the ball on their own 30-yard line to begin the first scoring drive. Dalton completed five straight passes to take the lead, including a 12-yarder to rookie Rodney Anderson on his first NFL touch. Dalton finished with 104 yards and one touchdown on 7-of-10 passing.
“It was good to get out there and get some good work in,” Dalton said at halftime. “We didn’t score every time we had the ball, but our first-team offense scored a touchdown on their last drive of the half, and that was a good thing.”
Finley took over at quarterback the next drive and picked up where he left off the first two preseason games, finding Damion Willis on a deep ball for a 33-yard completion. However, Cincinnati couldn’t get anything out of the drive and the Giants’ second-team offense ended up driving 62 yards to score on the Bengals’ first-team defense.
Jones, a first-round draft pick who is competing with Eli Manning for the starting role, found Darius Slayton on a 27-yard pass that William Jackson never saw coming to move the ball to the 1-yard line. Rod Smith ran it in two plays later for the 10-7 lead with 6:22 left in the second quarter.
“We made some good plays, but we’ve got a lot of stuff we need to clean up and a lot of things we need to work on,” Lawson said at halftime.
Randy Bulllock hit a 50-yard field goal with 29 seconds left to even the score going into halftime, and the score remained until Jake Dolegala took over on the last drive of the third quarter. He and Willis hooked up on a 3-yard touchdown pass for the 17-10 lead with 13:09 left before the Giants scored two quick touchdowns to go ahead for good, including a 68-yard punt return.
Cincinnati scored with less than three minutes left on a Dolegala pass to Josh Malone but the two-point conversion failed. The Giants had converted one to make it 18-17 earlier in the quarter.
Finley wasn’t quite as sharp as he had been in the previous two games, completing 14 of 20 passes for 155 yards and a rating of 92.7, but he also faced more pressure as the Giants sacked him three times. The offensive line continues to be a work in progress, as players continued to shuffle around Thursday.
Anderson, a sixth-round draft pick, was the player to watch for Cincinnati on Thursday. After missing the entire offseason while rehabbing an ACL tear, the former Oklahoma running back saw his first game action since last September and proved hard to take down. His most effective work came in the passing game, where he caught four passes on four targets for 51 yards. He rushed for just seven yards on eight carries behind a struggling offensive line.
The Bengals had just 29 yards rushing on 16 carries.
For the Giants, Jones finished with 141 yards on 9-of-11 passing. Manning was 4-for-8 for 41 yards.
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