The defense was discouraging enough as Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron led the Bengals on long touchdown drives sandwiched between a three-and-out.
The Bears' offense is dealing with its own three-and-out (besides what they did on the game-opening possession), as in the trio of wideouts who were sidelined in this most important preseason game: Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson (in addition to Kevin White).
With uncertainty clouding just when they'll return from their respective calf, hip, and hamstring injuries, the storyline was who'd step up. Joshua Bellamy, Marc Mariani and Rashad Lawrence would get a heavy workload, and each would catch a pass on four targets from Jay Cutler in the first four possessions.
Bellamy caught a six-yard toss on the first play from scrimmage, then after a second series in which none from that trio were thrown to, Lawrence grabbed a 16-yarder for a first down on the third series, and Mariani a short sideline toss in an effort to just improve field position on a third-and-20.
But on the ensuing series, Northwestern product Lawrence had a bad drop on a throw over the middle that would've produced a first down, instead sending the unit to the bench before the Bengals would all a third touchdown just before the half. Lawrence rebounded with a second reception during the two-minute drive, but failed to get out of bounds, despite being near the sideline. Mariani followed with a tough, pay-the-price 13-yard reception to get the ball inside the Cincinnati 25.
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Cutler's only other incompletions on the first four series came when he had to ground the ball under pressure, and therein lies a deeper concern, even if the three injured wideouts return in time for the season opener in a couple of weeks: A Jermon Bushrod hold stalled a second series that looked like it might have some legs, while Charles Leno, Jr. was beaten for a sack and called for a hold.
Bushrod's playing through a back issue that doesn't figure to get better over the next four months. But the right side still doesn't look "right," either. And after Mariani's second catch, a bullrush up the middle put Cutler on the ground, forcing the offense to settle for their lone points of the half, a field goal.