CINCINNATI -- The NFL's fourth preseason game probably ranks first on the list of most meaningless professional sporting events.
The game plan for every team is the same: Don’t get hurt.
The Bengals guaranteed that no starters would get hurt Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts by not playing any starters. In fact, hardly anyone listed among the top two on the depth chart played.
The Colts won it 13-10 on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Morris to Patrick Robinson with 40 seconds left. The Bengals had taken the lead 75 seconds earlier on Alonzo Russell’s 15-yard touchdown catch from Keith Wenning. The play came on third-and-9. Russell, a rookie free agent from Toledo, broke a tackle at the 2 to get in.
“Our focus is on the New York Jets,” coach Marvin Lewis said, referring to Sept. 11 regular season opener. “I felt that our main guys had accomplished what they needed to accomplish in the preseason. It was best to let them have the night off.”
The stands were half full. The upside: It was a lovely night for football.
The game does mean something for the guys of the edge of the roster.
“Tonight, guys got playing time,” Lewis said. “We got a chance to make good, strong evaluations. They got an opportunity to show what they can do and can’t do. That’s great. We’re ready to move forward.”
Here are nine takeaways with that in mind:
1. McCarron's night
AJ McCarron was the most recognizable player to get significant playing time.
McCarron is obviously a solid backup. By the way, I’m of the school that you keep him even if someone in need of a quarterback (Minnesota, for instance) makes a sweet offer. Teddy Bridgewater’s injury this year -- and Andy Dalton’s last year, for that matter -- show how important a good No. 2 quarterback can be.
McCarron did not have his best night. He was 7-for-12 for 96 yards. He was playing with a ragtag mix of a lineup. That said, he did miss badly on back-to-back passes on the first drive.
2. Clean bill
The Bengals survived the night well injury-wise. The only announced injury was to Chris Lewis-Harris, who suffered a stinger. He could have returned, but the coaches held him out.
“I don’t know,” Lewis said when asked if anyone got hurt. “I wouldn’t tell you if I did.”
3. Roach rocks
Trevor Roach got the start at middle linebacker. He responded with 10 tackles in the first half.
Roach was signed as a college free agent out of Nebraska last year and spent the year on the practice squad. He did play in the Wild Card game.
His chances of making the 53-man roster this year are good, especially given that Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first three games.
“You always try to figure it out,” Roach said. “But you never know.”
“Trevor keeps battling," Lewis said. “He’s playing his way to have an opportunity to stay here, which is great. He’s showing good things. Making tackles and how he make tackles is a little. Hopefully, he’ll be great."
4. Vigil's victory
Nick Vigil ended the Colts’ best threat of the half with a leaping interception at the 3.
“I give all the credit to our D-coordinator (Paul Guenther),” Vigil said. “He pretty much told us what play they were likely to run in that spot. He got us all in the right places, and I was able to get up and make the catch.”
Vigil was the third-round pick this year, out of Utah State. He was the only Football Bowl Series player to record at last nine tackles in every game.
“Nick is everything we expected he would be,” Lewis said.
5. Core value
Cody Core made a nice catch and run for 24 yards on the Bengals first drive. The sixth-round draft pick out of Mississippi has nice size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and shows a nice burst.
Core came into the game the leading receiver this preseason with seven catches for 111 yards.
6. Electric Alex
Alex Erickson continues to impress as a punt returner. He made two tacklers miss on a 14-yard return in the first quarter.
Erickson also made 17-yard and 22-yard catches on the scoring drive. He did drop a pass between those plays.
The free agent out of Wisconsin would seem like a solid bet to make the club, particularly after Brandon Tate was cut.
7. Smith burned
Derron Smith started at free safety. He was burned for 28 yards on a pass to Chase Coffman. Coffman could not have been more open.
The sixth-round pick out Fresno State last year seemed to redeem himself later in the drive by forcing a fumble. After further review by the stat crew, however, the forced fumble was credited to Chris Lewis-Harris.
8. On the Hunt
Magnus Hunt played most of the first half and was a factor in the final drive of the half. He got a hand on the quarterback early the drive.
Then, with the Colts threatening, he forced a holding penalty that put the Colts into a second-and-20.
The former second-round pick is probably on the roster bubble. He’s got great potential, but he hasn’t produced much. He’s a converted track star from Estonia, so that was understandable early in his career. But this is his fifth year.
9. Review? Really?
There were two reviews in the first half. There ought be a rule: No reviews in Game 4 of the preseason.