Leon Hall had a particularly bad game on a particularly bad day for the Bengals’ defense in the second week of the 2007 season. Hall was a rookie cornerback who was in coverage on three of the five touchdown passes Derek Anderson threw as Cleveland won a 51-45 onslaught of offense on the shores of Lake Erie.
When the Bengals returned to Cleveland in 2008, a late season game this time, Hall picked off three passes, including returning one 50 yards for a touchdown as the Bengals beat the Browns 14-0.
Forgetting one bad play, or a bad game, and moving on to the next play and the next game are all part of learning to play cornerback in the NFL. Dre Kirkpatrick got a pretty good lesson Saturday night in Dallas as the Cowboys beat the Bengals 24-18 in a preseason game at AT&T Stadium. It was the Bengals’ first loss of the preseason after beating Atlanta and Tennessee.
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With Adam Jones and Brandon Ghee not playing, Kirkpatrick got time with the first team defense and never came off the field. He kept on playing, kept on learning. He was on the field for 61 of Dallas’ 75 offensive snaps, the most of any Bengals’ defender, plus another nine plays on special teams.
Last year’s first first-round draft choice was called for two pass interference penalties and was beaten by wide receiver Dez Bryant for a five-yard touchdown pass in the first half. He was the first to miss a tackle on running back DeMarco Murray in the third quarter as Murray turned a swing pass into a seven-yard touchdown.
Kirkpatrick was credited with eight tackles and one tackle for loss. He played in just five games last season, all in a limited role, due to injuries. Kirkpatrick has had a good training camp and first two preseason games but Saturday against the Cowboys, especially starting quarterback Tony Romo and wide receivers Bryant and Miles Austin, was a continual test.
“He has to play and get a baptism under fire,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “He didn’t get a chance to play a lot (last season). He didn’t play any last preseason, so he’s getting an opportunity to play and work to get better and improve on his technique and the things that he’s asked to do based on each coverage.”
Kirkpatrick isn’t the only Bengal who will have plenty of film to watch after this game. After forcing punts on Dallas’ first two possessions of the game, the Bengals allowed touchdowns on three of the next four Dallas drives. Romo completed 13 of 18 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half, while Dallas finished with 358 yards overall. Tennessee gained 412 yards last week.
The Bengals close out the preseason on Thursday at home against Indianapolis. Figure Kirkpatrick to get plenty of more playing time in that game.
*Special teams – Brandon Tate put the Bengals up 7-0 with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter, the second punt return touchdown for the Bengals this preseason. The touchdown came after the Cowboys had to re-do the punt after a first kick hit the monstrosity of a videoboard that hangs over the field.
“Darrin (Simmons) always tells us that nothing good happens for the punt team on a re-kick, and we made them pay,” said Tate. “I give all the credit to the other 10 guys out there with me. Everybody blocked it perfectly, and all I had to do was find the hole and shoot through it. Nobody really had a good shot at me.”
Dane Sanzenbacher added a 53-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that gave the offense a final shot at winning the game. The Bengals were also good in coverage. All four times they kicked off, the Cowboys began the ensuing possession inside their own 20-yard line.
*Cobi Hamilton comeback – Hamilton gained 18 yards on a reverse in the third quarter, including side-stepping a defender in the backfield, but lost the football when tackled. He came back to score the Bengals’ final touchdown, however, on a four-yard pass with 7:01 remaining in the fourth quarter. Hamilton took the pass from Josh Johnson, again eluded defenders to the pylon and dove for the touchdown. He set up the score by catching a fourth-and-four pass to keep the drive alive. He wrapped up the ball with both hands on that catch.
*Situational situations – The offensive and defensive starters got the most snaps they’ve played all preseason, which was expected. Quarterback Andy Dalton played into the third quarter. He completed 12-of-16 passes for 113 yards but was picked off for the first time this preseason on a deep throw down the middle intended for Mohamed Sanu. Wide receiver A.J. Green also saw his first game action of the preseason, catching three passes for 42 yards.
“I felt good. I felt 100 percent. It’s great to be back out there,” said Green. “It seemed like a long time since I got hurt, but I knew I’d be back in plenty of time.”
*No Andrew Whitworth – The Pro Bowl left tackle didn’t travel to Dallas and hasn’t played this season while practicing only sparingly. He had offseason knee surgery. The team hasn’t expressed any public concern over his ability to be ready for the regular season opener against Chicago on Sept. 8 but it would have been a better sign to see Whitworth on the field. Anthony Collins again started in place of Whitworth and did a solid job against Dallas’ talented defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
In addition to Whitworth’s absence, starting right tackle Andre Smith left the game with a left knee injury. He was seen leaving the locker room without assistance or troubles, so it appears he will be fine for the season opener.
*Turnovers – The Bengals were minus-four in the loss, losing two fumbles and throwing two interceptions. Wide receiver Marvin Jones’ fumble at the Dallas 4 after a 16-yard reception wiped out a potential scoring threat on the first drive of the game. Defensively, the Bengals have created just one turnover in the preseason, an interception by Ghee at Atlanta.
“If you don’t take care of the ball on offense, if you turn it over, it negates all of the good things you started out doing right away,” said Lewis. “We need a turnover. We have to create turnovers on defense.”
*Third downs – The offense didn’t sustain drives, converting just two of nine third-down chances, while the defense didn’t get off the field. Dallas converted nine of its 16 attempts on third down, plus one fourth down. The Cowboys nearly doubled the Bengals in time of possession, 39:31 compared to 20:29.