So, did we learn anything from the first preseason game? Probably — but what exactly that was will only reveal itself in hindsight. Is it significant that the Bengals won? Maybe. It’s only the second time since ’03 that they’ve emerged victorious from their first preseason outing. Were Monday night’s tackling woes part of the shape of things to come? That would be my candidate for “Most Likely to Carry Over Into the Regular Season,” but we’ll see.
One thing I’m not yet concerned about is the offense. Yes, they had a slow start, but were also missing Rudi Johnson, Willie Anderson and Carson Palmer’s favorite safety valve, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. If they get them all back — and both Rudi and Willie appear to be going tomorrow against the Detroit Lions — but are still sputtering, then I’ll get anxious.
If history is any guide, the Bengals ought to record their second preseason win Sunday. They have only dropped their second preseason game once under coach Marvin Lewis, last year’s 27-19 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Before that, they had won four straight, beginning with a 23-10 drubbing of the Lions.
Elsewhere around the division, the Bengals’ rivals are all having their own preseason problems. In their first go-round against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers squeezed out a 16-10 win thanks to six points scored in a fourth quarter scrub-fest. The Steelers lost backup QB Charlie Batch to a broken collarbone in the game, and have since signed former Jaguar Byron Leftwich. Leftwich threw his first passes in a Steelers uniform Thursday night in Toronto against the Bills (5/11, 41 yards), but the QB story of the night was Buffalo’s Trent Edwards, who chewed up the Pittsburgh defense en route to a 24-21 Bills win.
The Cleveland Browns played the gracious host to the New York Jets, losing 24-20. The Browns may have shored up their defensive line this offseason, but the secondary appears as atrocious as many suspected it would be. Early in the second quarter, the Jets inserted a QB named Brett. No, not that Brett, Brett Ratliff, who would remain behind center for the Jets the rest of the way and rack up 252 yards and a pair of TDs. Both TDs (not to mention 163 yards) came from another “who?” WR David Clowney.
Baltimore got to play the Tom Brady-less Patriots to start the preseason, and the Ravens’ one-point victory was pretty much SSDY. Defensively, the Ravens checked the run early, forced fumbles and picked off each of New England’s three QBs once. Offensively, the Ravens couldn’t manufacture anything but punts and (3) FGs. The team’s sole TD came after a 52-yard punt return set Baltimore up on the New England 2.