HYATTSVILLE, Maryland –– On the first play of the Cincinnati Bengals second preseason game, the Bengals defense left a player wide open in the middle of the field.
Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas took a short reception for 28 yards. It was the type of play the Bengals new-look defense never allowed during training camp, and it was the type of play that defined the defense’s struggles in 2019 and 2020.
And it was the only big play the Bengals first-team defense allowed all game.
As the Bengals lost 17-13 to Washington on Friday, the first team defense continued to deliver standout moments. Over the first two preseason games and during the first month of training camp, the Bengals defense has delivered.
"We have guys at every position, and we have another year in this system," Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson said. "Guys are flying around, being confident in what they're doing and what they're asked to do. Guys are flying around to make plays."
After Thomas’ catch, the Bengals defense allowed just 24 yards over the next three series. The unit forced a sack, an interception and a turnover on downs. The Bengals coaching staff gave their new starters more playing time than it did in the first preseason game, and after the first play the first-team defense was always on the same page.
When Washington ran the ball, Bengals nose tackle D.J. Reader made a tackle on the sideline. When Washington attempted a third down pass on that first drive, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was in the area in pass coverage.
On the next drive, Wilson made a highlight tackle and Awuzie made a highlight pass deflection on an attempted deep pass into the end-zone. Washington went for it on 4th-and-1. Reader, Wilson and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi stuffed a run at the line of scrimmage.
"We hold ourselves to a certain standard," Ogunjobi said. "That's the standard we want to bring to Cincinnati this year. It's good, but we can be better."
Then on the first-team defense’s third and final series of the game, Wilson forced a fumble on a short reception over the middle of the field. Wilson finished the game with three tackles, and the Bengals first team defense had four quarterback hits.
"Zero points, that's the ones that matters," head coach Zac Taylor said. "Two (preseason) games in a row, zero points (against the first string defense). That's the only thing I care about."
Playing without starting quarterback Joe Burrow, the first team offense never got into a rhythm. The Bengals only had 55 yards in the first half, and the only big play was a contested catch by wide receiver Tee Higgins over the middle.
Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen threw to rookie Ja’Marr Chase on the first three third downs of the game. Chase dropped the first two, and the pass was off-target on the third attempt. Chase, who has improved over the last week during training camp practices, didn’t record a catch on Friday.
"It starts with me not being accurate with a lot of those passes," Allen said. "A lot of contested plays I could have put the ball in a lot better position for the guys to at least make a play on. I think I sailed at least two out of bounds."
Allen started the second half with an eight-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that was highlighted by a first down slant to wide receiver Trenton Irwin. Allen ran the ball in from the 1-yard line on the next play to give the Bengals a 10-6 lead.
Following a field goal drive by Washington, Washington running back Jaret Patterson led Washington’s offense to a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
In the last three minutes, Bengals fourth-string quarterback Eric Dungey led the team to the 39-yard line on a potential game-winning drive. But on a fourth down run, Dungey came up just short as the Bengals turned the ball over on downs.
While the Bengals lost 17-13, Washington scored all 17 of those points against the Bengals backups.
"The guys behind us are doing a tremendous job," Ogunjobi said. "They're learning keys, they're playing fast and playing with a lot of passion and a lot of heart. I'm excited to see them continue to grow."