Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
On Sunday night, the Cincinnati Bengals did something they hadn’t done in nearly eight months: win an NFL game. In defeating the Arizona Cardinals 19-13, the Bengals got off their preseason snide, but they also watched multimillion-dollar man Vontaze Burfict knocked from the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury that will almost certainly keep him inactive Thursday at home against the Indianapolis Colts.
In Arizona, neither team could muster much in the way of offense, as Cardinals’ receiver John Brown was the lone offensive player to pick up a touchdown. Cincinnati cornerback Terrence Newman picked off Cards’ QB Drew Stanton in the first quarter and ran 54 yards for a TD, but the rest of the scoring came on the legs of Mike Nugent (Bengals), Quinn Sharp (Bengals), Jay Feely (Cardinals) and Chandler Catanzaro (Cardinals).
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The game was a mixed bag for the Bengals, who gave starting quarterback his first extended playing time of the preseason. In two previous, very limited starts, Dalton had been nearly perfect, but was merely good against the Cardinals: 13-for-21, 157 yards, no TDs or INTs, and no sacks. Expectations are high for Dalton this season after three straight early playoff losses and after inking a hefty contract extension earlier in the month.
New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson used this game to look closely at his backup running backs, and he must’ve liked what he saw from Cedric Peerman, who carried six times for 54 yards, including one breakaway 37-yarder. Rookie Jeremy Hill was steady working with the first-team offense, racking up 48 yards on 12 carries. The receiving corp, too, looked fine, as eight players caught 20 passes for 215 yards.
Interestingly, much-maligned backup QB Jason Campbell was back in action on Sunday after concussion worries sidelined possible replacement Tyler Wilson. Campbell avoided glaring mistakes this time around while posting a QBR of 61.
This game was also marked by the preseason debut DT Geno Atkins, who spent the offseason rehabbing from a torn ACL. Atkins played two series and made a solo tackle before bowing out to save wear and tear before the regular season, though we still might catch a glimpse of him against the Colts.
Meanwhile, Burfict was forced out after registering a couple of take-downs. The last preseason game is usually mop-up time for final tuning and last-minute roster evaluations, so we probably wouldn’t have seen much of Burfict against the Colts on Thursday, anyway. With a hamstring injury and a big payday, we definitely shouldn’t expect to see him again until the games count.
The victory against the Cardinals may not boost the Bengals towards the playoffs in 2014, but it marks the first time that the first units were together for a big chunk of game time this preseason, and it was encouraging to see them pull together cohesively. It’s a long way from August to February, but at least Cincinnati is showing fans some promise as the NFL regular season dawns.