CINCINNATI -- As you might have guessed, Saturday’s 30-12 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs left the Bengals with plenty to work on.
Eighteen-point losses are like that.
The Bengals missed tackles. The running game was all but non-existent. The offense could not finish drives, and the defense had no answer for quarterbacks Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes and Tyler Bray.
“First of all, we have to finish drives and get in the end zone,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “Defensively, we have to do a better job of stopping our opponents on third down. When you don’t stop them on third down, you let them keep their drives going, and it keeps our offense off the field.”
Quarterback Andy Dalton made a couple nice plays, but it was not one of his better games. He was 7-for-13 for 98 yards.
“I thought we moved the ball fairly well overall. But we’ve got to score TDs," Dalton said. "We picked up a few first downs and kept things moving, but we’ve got to cross the goal line.”
Dalton hit A.J. Green on third down twice to prolong the Bengals’ opening drive, but the third time was no charm. Dalton overthrew a wide-open Green as he cut across the field.
AJ McCarron wasn’t any better than Dalton. He was called for intentional grounding on a play and threw an interception on the next. That set up KC’s fourth touchdown.
Here are the Top 9 takeaways from the game:
1. No. 1 defense second-rate
For the second straight week, the opposition marched down the field against the No. 1 defense. And, again, the Bengals forced a field goal attempt.
The defensive line didn’t get much pressure on Smith. That was especially true on Smith’s 36-yard connection to Travis Kelce, the Pro Bowler from the University of Cincinnati.
The Chiefs did the same thing on their second drive, but this time, they converted the touchdown.
Smith hit Demetrius Harris for five yards and the TD. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say Smith had all night to find an open receiver.
2. O-Line less than fine
The offensive line kept Dalton and McCarron from getting hit for the most part in last week’s game.
That wasn’t the case Saturday. Allen Bailey came right up the side to sack Dalton for a 13-yard loss that pretty much killed the second drive.
3. Running game?
When Jeremy Hill ripped off an 11-yard run on the second play of the game, it looked like the Bengals might be able to put up some impressive rushing numbers.
It didn’t happen.
The Bengals netted 30 yards on the next 10 carries in the half.
4. Erickson's night
Alex Erickson had a big first half. He returned a kickoff for 39 yards and caught two passes for 37 yards. Erickson made the team last year based on the his performance in the preseason.
5. Malone's big play
Josh Malone fought off tight coverage to catch a pass for 15 yards and convert on a fourth-and-4. Malone, the fourth-round pick, is roughly A.J. Green’s size at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds. He looked like Green for at least one play.
Malone had another nice catch in the second half.
Second-year linebacker Nick Vigil was active again on defense. He nearly had an interception, and he also had a tackle for a 5-yard loss.
Vigil finished with eight tackles. He led the team in tackles in the first preseason game.
7. One down
The biggest thing you want to do in the preseason is avoid injury. The Bengals didn’t. Strong safety Shawn Williams was taken off on a cart with an elbow injury. He did not return.
The Bengals were already hurting at safety before the injury.
8. Just for kicks
Randy Bullock drilled a 47-yard field goal for the Bengals’ first points. His kickoff following the field goal went through the end zone for a touchback.
Jake Elliot, the fifth-round draft choice, converted from 32 yards and 39 yards.
Bullock and Elliot both put their kickoffs in the end zone.
Will Monday, the free agent brought in to compete with punter Kevin Huber, did not do himself any favors. His first punt went for 11 yards. Monday kicked 59 yards on his second punt.
9. Gotta finish
Rookie Jordan Willis got to Mahomes as he dropped back to pass, but Willis allowed Mahomes to escape. He scrambled 14 yards to the two. The play set up Kansas City’s second touchdown.
Willis has the quickness and speed to impact the rusher, but he can’t let sacks slip out of grasp.
In the fourth quarter, Willis got his man. He sacked Bray for a loss of eight.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.