The Bengals passed their first football test Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium with a 23-10 preseason-opening victory against the visiting New York Giants.
The men in blue ended a week-long stay in Cincinnati that included back-to-back joint practices with the Bengals, who capped a successful week of training camp with a W.
Cincinnati's first-team offense clicked on its one and only drive behind the passing of Andy Dalton and the running of Jeremy Hill for seven first-quarter points. The Bengals led 10-0 after one quarter and 17-10 at halftime.
The Cincinnati first-team defense blanked the Giants' first-team offense. Both Bengals starting offensive and defensive lines had their way with their Giants counterparts before giving way to the reserves for the rest of the contest.
The 42-29 run-pass split in the game for Cincinnati was in line with the team's run-based identity, closely mirroring what the Bengals want to do when the games get real: ground and pound with Hill, and pass to wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert.
The rushing-receiving yards split was 225 rushing, 207 passing for a Cincinnati total of 432. That was 208 more than New York, which had a hard time moving the ball against mostly Bengals reserves.
The Bengals wasted no time asserting themselves while moving to 1-0 on the preseason ledger. On the game-opening drive, the starting defense held Eli Manning, Rashad Jennings, Odell Beckham Jr. and company to minus-two yards while forcing the Giants to punt. Linebacker Vinnie Rey stopped Jennings for three yards on first down. Manning's pass short right to Jennings was sniffed out by left end Carlos Dunlap for a five-yard loss. Manning threw incomplete to wide receiver Rueben Randle, covered by Dre Kirkpatrick.
The Bengals took over at their own 48 yard line after the punt exchange and a penalty. Six plays and 52 yards later, they were in the end zone under Dalton's direction.
The fifth-year quarterback guided them on a crisp 2-minute and 55-second drive. He finished 3-for-3 passing for 31 yards, and capped it with a three-yard touchdown toss to receiver Mohamed Sanu, who ran through the back of the end zone and gave the football to a little boy in the front row.
Playing out of the shotgun formation on three of the opening-drive plays, Dalton hit Eifert for 12 yards over the middle on first down and gave it to Hill, who rambled for 10 yards for another first down. Dalton hit Green short right for a 16-yard gain. Hill had two carries for 15 yards.
Dalton didn't see anything on first-and-10 at the Giants' 30 and tucked it for a 6-yard scramble to the Giants' 8. Hill went up the middle for five on second-and-four to the Giants' 3, setting up Sanu's score and gift-giving moment with the young fan.
The Bengals kept giving it to the Giants, who managed 224 total yards. The Bengals averaged two yards per play more than the Giants -- 5.9 compared to 3.8 yards for New York. The Bengals had 29 first downs. The Giants had 13.
Reserve linebacker Nico Johnson led the Bengals with 10 tackles. The Bengals had two sacks, one each by rookie defensive tackle Marcus Hardison and tackle DeShawn Williams, who had two quarterback hits.
The Bengals' leading rusher was reserve tailback James Wilder Jr. with 53 yards on 14 carries, with a long gain of 20. He scored on a two-yard TD run in the second quarter. Undrafted rookie Terrell Watson rushed seven times for 52 yards. Watson had a 26-yard run.
Undrafted rookie kicker Tom Obarski, given a look with a healthy Mike Nugent on the sideline, made three of four field goals, one each in the first, third and fourth quarters. His long was 46 yards in the first for a 10-0 lead.
Reserve quarterback Josh Johnson was 11-of-21 passing for 175 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, before giving way to Keith Wenning, who was 2-for-5 for 11 yards and the game's lone turnover, via interception. Johnson left the pocket too much, but was productive when he did, rushing six times for 37 yards. Wenning looked lost. Projected backup QB AJ McCarron did not suit up after suffering an upper body muscle pull earlier in the week.
Reserve back Rex Burkhead lined up some in the slot but was not targeted. He had four carries for 23 yards before leaving the game with a neck injury. The only other apparent Bengals injury was to cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who suffered a groin injury.
Off-the-street free agent Greg Little was the Bengals' top receiver with three catches for 65 yards. Cheap free-agent acquisition Denarius Moore hauled in a 30-yard pass. Eifert had two catches for 30 yards. Speedy rookie receiver Mario Alford was busy. He had one catch for 13 yards, a run going for 23, a kick return for 21 yards and two punt returns for eight yards.
Injury-riddled receiver Marvin Jones played and caught a pass for 17 yards. He was targeted twice, but didn't see a snap with the first team. Neither did Giovani Bernard, who carried four times for five yards after Dalton left the game.
Cincinnati spread it around. A dozen Bengals caught passes; 14 players were targeted. Nine Bengals carried the football.