Bucs Humble Hapless Bengals, 25-11

It's a reverse! Just 10 days after looking like masters of their craft in the preseason opener against the Giants, the Bengals travel to Tampa Bay and become baffled by the fundamentals while getting beat by the Bucs.

On to the film room for the Bengals following Monday's bewilderingly bad 25-11 shellacking at the hands of a Tampa Bay team that coach Marvin Lewis' crew can't seem to draw a bead on.

Typical Bengals. They wilted under the bright primetime lights of televised football while laying a Monday Night Football egg at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Thank goodness it's the preseason because the Bengals were outperformed in nearly all phases by a team with far less talent. In many cases, the vistors looked alternately lost, lazy and a little hazy about the way the game of football is supposed to be played, handing ballyhooed rookie quarterback Jameis Winston a win in his Buccaneers preseason home debut.

The Bengals whiffed on tackles, allowing longer-than-necessary power runs by erstwhile elite back Doug Martin. Looking lost the past two seasons, Martin appeared energized against the perplexed Bengals, gashing the first-team defense for 59 yards on six carries.

The Bengals not only missed tackles but missed the boat on the beginning stages of righting the ship following a rousing 1-0 preseason start and last year's annual playoff dud. Under the circumstances, with a week to go before the dress rehearsal, it's a curious time to be looking for ballast.

So, back to the drawing board it is for the Bengals, who haven't let off the gas on their one-of-a-kind up and down ride. Ten days after manhandling a far better New York Giants team, the Bengals went to the site of last year's 14-13 regular-season escape in Tampa and could not get ensconced against the Buccaneers.

As a result, the wildest roller coaster in Cincinnati spins anew. The Bengals follow their own soaring ascensions such as those made against the Giants with plummeting lows like the trap-door variety experienced against the lowly Bucs, the worst team in the NFL last year with two (2) wins.

Tampa Bay's reward for dubious play in 2014 was Winston with the first pick of this year's NFL draft. Thanks to the Bengals' aversion to fundamentals, Winston lit up the Cincinnati defense like a series of cigarettes, smoked for pleasure.

Then he kicked their butts.

Winston finished 8-of-13 passing for 90 yards with no turnovers. He also beat the Bengals with his legs, running in a 1-yard touchdown to the pylon, capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive on which he looked like a veteran. Bucs backup QB Mike Glennon looked even better in relief.

This wasn't all on the Bengals' defense, which is missing its best player (linebacker Vontaze Burfict), its top free-agent acquisition (defensive end Michael Johnson) not to mention the mojo and all-around pressure that were staples under since-departed defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, whose Vikings handled Winston just fine last week in a 26-16 home win.

Winston, the one-time Heisman Trophy winner as a freshman at Florida State, was 9-of-19 with an interception and a 48.4 rating against Zimmer's group. On Monday against the team Zimmer left, Winston's rating was 82.2. Glennon's was 113.5.

Mercy.

Cincinnati received none from the Bucs.

They rolled up an improbable 356-152 total yards advantage. It was so bad for the Bengals, running back Jeremy Hill carried four times for a pedestrian 16 yards and lost a fumble. Dalton was 6-of-13 passing for 46 yards with two interceptions. Of consolation was backup QB A.J. McCarron's seemingly successful debut. He was 11-of-15 passing for 97 yards and a 90.1 rating. Rookie Jake Kumerow was the top receiver with three catches for 42 yards. Chris Carter had 1.5 sacks to lead the defense. Margus Hunt had a sack in his return to the field.

Shockingly, some of the Bengals' best players at times played half-hearted. The most egregious example being wide receiver A.J. Green's inability to catch a short pass from Dalton, followed by Green's zombie-like effort to stop the ensuing 24-yard interception return heading to the end zone in the hands of Alterraun Verner. The pick-six, absolutely no fault of Dalton's, helped give the Bucs a 14-0 second-quarter lead.

Dalton was entirely to blame on a high toss in a crowd to tight end Tyler Eifert, who was smothered by three defenders on a seam route and had no chance for a badly thrown ball that was picked off.

The Bengals at times had too many men on defense. The offense averaged 3.2 yards per play (2.8 yards per carry) and had three turnovers. The defense forced no turnovers, although it totaled four sacks. The Vikings averaged 6.2 yards per play against the Bucs. The Bengals were beaten for a touchdown on a zero-coverage blitz after Glennon changed the play and found Russell Shepard for a 22-yard TD pass. Cedric Peerman was tackled in the end zone for a Bucs safety.

It was 23-3 at halftime. More than that, it was ugly for Cincinnati, which trailed 25-3 until running back James Wilder Jr. scored a fourth-quarter touchdown on a five-yard run capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive directed by McCarron. Wilder also ran in the two-point conversion, setting the final score.

Rookie Tom Obarski converted a 37-yard second-quarter field goal, and that was all the scoring for the punchless Bengals.

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