Sanzenbacher stands out in Bengals' victory
AUG 09, 2013 12:17a ET
Sanzenbacher might have been an afterthought last year, but he made his presence felt in Thursday’s 34-10 win against Atlanta in the preseason opener for both teams. Sanzenbacher has had a good training camp but if anyone that counted wasn’t paying attention he made sure they took notice by catching two passes for 59 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown from quarterback John Skelton early in the fourth quarter, and returning a punt 71 yards for another score.
Making the Bengals as a wide receiver isn’t going to be easy if your name isn’t A.J. Green, but Thursday’s game puts Sanzenbacher squarely in contention for a roster spot.
“It was nice to make out on the opportunities that you get,” said Sanzenbacher during the postgame radio show. “Obviously it’s the first preseason game so nothing to get too crazy about but it’s nice to start off fast.”
Five wide receivers did not play for the Bengals: Green, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Jheranie Boyd and Tyrone Goard. That left more time for Sanzenbacher, Ryan Whalen, Brandon Tate and rookie Cobi Hamilton. The ankle injury to Hawkins will only make the competition at the position that much more interesting.
“I don’t think it’s any real surprise for us because we knew we had a bunch of guys who can play,” said Sanzenbacher. “Unfortunately we have had injuries early in camp, but thankfully they’re not that serious. It does give us a lot of opportunities to get reps in games and against good opponents.
“You want to get it on film, regardless. I think any player, first and foremost, their goal is to impress the guys in their locker (room). I don’t think, at least for me, I could care less what the 32 teams (think). That’s not what’s going through your head when you’re scoring. You’re thinking about all of the guys that helped make that happen. We’ve been grinding through OTAs and through this part of camp so it’s nice to get that part of that done.”
Tate also had two receptions, including a 21-yard touchdown from Josh Johnson in between two defenders in the second quarter that broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Bengals the lead for good.
“I was happy with that throw, and that’s a play where you can chalk it all up to trust,” said Johnson. “Working in practice with that guy (Tate), he gives you a great effort on every snap, and gives you the confidence that you can make that throw and he’ll make that play.”
The Bengals have historically kept six receivers on the final 53-man roster but last season kept seven. Whalen played his way onto the roster during the preseason. He had two catches for 31 yards Thursday but also slipped and dropped a would-be first down reception from starting quarterback Andy Dalton in the first quarter.
“We’ve got a lot of guys fighting to stay, guys fighting for playing time,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.
*Backup QBs – Johnson and Skelton completed 12 of 20 combined passes for 163 yards and each threw a touchdown pass. Johnson added 64 yards on the ground, a dimension he is comfortable bringing to the field. He’s got the early upper hand on the No. 2 job behind Dalton but this will play out the rest of the preseason.
*Get off the field – The Bengals held Atlanta to just two of eight third-down conversions in the first half, including Geno Atkins blowing up a third-and-two run by Steven Jackson from the Cincinnati 16-yard line on the Falcons’ first possession of the game. It forced Atlanta to settle for a 37-yard field goal.
*Push up front – The Bengals rushed for 224 yards on 41 carries. Yes, Johnson’s long scrambles count in that total but the offensive line got a good push all night long. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard scored on a fourth-and-goal run from the one-yard line with two seconds left in the first half. If this was the regular season it’s debatable whether the Bengals would go for a touchdown in that situation, but that’s what the preseason is for. Bernard scored standing up.
*Penalties – The Bengals were flagged six times for minus-40 yards, including four penalties on their first four possessions. Left guard Clint Boling and center Kyle Cook had penalties on the two drives for the first team offense, putting it in a hole.
*Big plays – They are the bane of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s life. The Falcons caught the Bengals on a blitz on the first drive of the game, and quarterback Matt Ryan’s quick throw out to wide receiver Harry Douglas turned into a 42-yard gain and led to Atlanta’s first points of the game.
*Injuries – Rookie offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury. That was the most serious injury of the night. Cornerback Brandon Ghee, who had an interception that set up Bernard’s touchdown, left the game after getting banged up with a head injury in the fourth quarter.