Bengals drop preseason opener to Cardinals


CINCINNATI — Oh yeah — there was a ball game on Friday night at Paycor Stadium (formerly known as Paul Brown Stadium.)

Not many of us in the press box paid much attention to the action on the field while the Arizona Cardinals thumped Cincinnati 36-23 in front of more than 60,000 Who Dey faithful.

We had fun catching up, munching on the traditional Gold Star Chili halftime meal, and finally being allowed back into the locker room after the game to talk with players and coaches.

And speaking of the game, it was ho-hum.

The Bengals were plagued by penalties, injuries and turnovers in the loss.

The only bright spot was a solid showing from kicker Evan McPherson, who came off one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history last year.

He nailed kicks of 58, 56 and 23 yards in the loss, but the crowd loved his performance and cheered loudly when he made the field goals.

There was really nothing else to cheer for.

“I thought it was kind of weird,” McPherson said after the game. “Because normally for a field goal, you kind of just stay quiet and that’s pretty much it. It’s kind of cool to see the crowd get that involved.”

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor echoed what McPherson had to say about the pumped-up fans.

“That was as good a crowd as I’ve ever seen for a preseason game,” Taylor said. “Probably the best I’ve ever been around to be honest with you. You could feel the energy and excitement. Wish we would have come out a little faster to really give them something to cheer about that first half. We do appreciate the excitement. Just driving into the stadium, you could feel it. You could feel the energy all around the city.”

Most of the starters sat out from the game and did not even suit up for competition, including the NFL Comeback Player of the Year quarterback Joe Burrow, who was sidelined with an appendectomy.

Taylor said he is not going to predict when Burrow will be in action but added, “every day has been a very encouraging day for him.”

Last year, Burrow was sacked more than any other quarterback in the league, as was still one pass away from winning the Super Bowl.

The brass in Cincy noticed and signed Alex Cappa at right guard, Ted Karras as center and La’el Collins at right tackle during the offseason.

None of them played on Friday night, but they have high expectations to give Burrow more time to throw in the pocket.

The Bengals’ No. 1 draft pick, Dax Hill, had a rough debut at safety.

The Michigan product was burned a few times, and let Arizona receives catch passes at will.

But he did make a few plays in the first half.

He made one tackle and got his hands on the ball two times.

“He jumped out at you,” Taylor said, “He made two real good plays, one down there in the red zone and one on the field there on third down. Those are big time plays, so that’s what stands out and then you’ll evaluate the rest of it and see how he was. But that was exciting to see from Dax.”

Hill nearly had an end-zone pick on a third-down pass early in the game.

But at the last instance, the ball was knocked out of his hands.

“I have to go back and look at it,” Hill said. “I don’t know if he punched it out or I lost it when I hit the ground.”

Brandon Allen started for the Bengals under center and was three for three with 29 yards before he was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Jake Browning came off the bench and threw for 190 yards and completed 13 of 24 passes but had three fumbles, despite being chased out of the pocket most of the evening.

Local favorite Drew Plitt came in toward the end of the game for the Bengals and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to rookie receive Kendric Pryor.

The Loveland product completed all six passes and posted a 158.3 passer rating.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Plitt said. “I know it’s a cliché, but I’m going to say it all the time. Growing up in this city and being able to come to work every day, and it’s really not a job if you look at it the way I am. It’s awesome.”

When Burrow returns, Plitt’s spot on the roster will be in jeopardy.

Cincinnati travels to New York to face the Giants on Sunday (Aug.21), and returns home to host the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 27 in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl.

Overall, Taylor said he was okay with what he saw, but needs to make adjustments to protect the quarterback.

“We set out to win the game,” Taylor added. “That didn’t happen today, so that part wasn’t what we wanted. But I thought the guys at the end of the game played with real good energy there in the fourth quarter. They responded to some adversity. So now we get a chance to really evaluate the full scope of the tape and see what kind of got us in the hole. I got a pretty good idea—some of the penalties and a turnover. See how guys responded from some of those bad times. Look forward to doing that tomorrow.”

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