The up and down Bengals were decidedly up, and fast, at the beginning of Saturday's third preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals stopped the Bears three-and-out and took over at their own 23 yard line, and started a mammoth 16-play, 77-yard uptempo scoring drive that took a little more than nine minutes off the clock on the way to a 7-0 Cincinnati lead.
The Bengals did what they wanted to do on offense while having their way with the Bears in the dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener, but who knows what they will look like when it counts.
Saturday night, they looked good, after looking so bad during a 25-11 beat down at Tampa Bay, which followed a terrific preseason-opening performance against the New York Giants. The last time the Bengals played a game for real, they famously blew it amid a passel of injuries to key players in the Wild Card playoff at Indianapolis.
Quarterback Andy Dalton made good decisions Saturday as he drove the Bengals downfield on the opening drive. He incorporated different running backs on the ground and through the air and found five different receivers out of varying formations. One was a quarterback read with three down linemen that Dalton exploited for an easy gain.
Dalton threw a well-executed screen pass to Ryan Hewitt to help get things going in their own territory. Mohamed Sanu got the start opposite A.J. Green, but Marvin Jones hauled in the first Bengals completion of the game to a receiver. Green did not catch a pass on the Bengals' opening drive, not that they needed him.
There was excellent pass protection, but not a lot of running room for Jeremy Hill. Rex Burkhead was effective, especially in the slot in four-wide sets. He caught two passes on the opening drive, one for 11 yards up the middle and another for 25 yards up the middle, where the Bengals did most of their damage on the field.
Tight end Tyler Eifert caught a nice ball up the middle for five yards as Dalton had plenty of time to read through progressions behind an absolute wall of Bengals offensive linemen who had an easy time holding their ground against the anemic Bears first-team defense.
The opening drive was punctuated by a Dalton sneak on fourth-and-inches after the Bengals thought they had a Hill touchdown on fourth-and-inches one play earlier. When Hill couldn't get in the end zone on three plays in a row from inside the 1, Dalton took matters into his own hands.
The good news for the Bengals didn't end there. Mike Nugent, making his first presason appearance following a hamstring issue, booted the extra-point kick down the middle for a 7-0 Bengals lead.
What a difference five days make during a short week. Dalton was 6-for-6 passing on the opening drive for 52 yards. He was 6-of-13 passing for 46 yards during his entire effort Monday against the Bucs.