CINCINNATI – The third preseason game is usually the one where starters play into the third quarter. Since most of the defense didn’t play much of the first two quarters while the Cincinnati Bengals were piling up 21 points and 210 yards, Fox pulled most of the No. 1’s to start the third quarter, apparently seeing little reason for making the Bengals feel any better about themselves than they already did.
“I just don’t think we played as tight and as sharp as we did a week ago [beating Indianapolis],” Fox said. “Most of that was on third down, in particular defensively.”
Cincinnati quarterbacks Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron completed all 12 of their first-half passes, the principal reason the Bengals converted 71 percent (five of seven) third downs in the first half when the game was decided.
And for the disturbing second time in three preseason games, the Bears’ defense with injuries continuing to pile up was pushed methodically backwards for a touchdown on an opponent’s opening possession. And it wasn’t just once.
In game one it was the Miami Dolphins running 14 plays to cover 85 yards, and taking 8 minutes to do it, for their one touchdown.
This time it was the Cincinnati Bengals driving 77 yards and taking 16 plays and 9 minutes 11 seconds to do it. But while the second-string defense rallied somewhat in the Miami game, the No. 1 unit had it happen again with a drive covering 71 yards in the second quarter.
“We'll all look at this and think, 'What can we do better?'” said linebacker Jared Allen. “We all expect to play well. We're all going to compete to push each other. I think we have a lot of depth at that position, but I think it's still new to us.
“So we've got to keep on grinding, keep on pushing it. Take coaching. There's always highs, there's always lows. Again, we'll learn from it. It's better it happened now, then let it happen when the games count. It's a learning tool.”
The misfortunes along the defensive front took a devastating turn early against the Bengals when nose tackle Eddie Goldman, a pivotal player already because of the coming suspension of Jeremiah Ratliff, had to be escorted to the sideline with a possible concussion after an unsuccessful goal-line stand in the first quarter. The news worsened when Ratliff was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury, about which coach John Fox said only that “it’s not broken.”
Ratliff has not played 16 games in a season since 2011 and won’t this year because of the three-game suspension for a DWI incident. Ratliff took an inside rush of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the first quarter, lost containment and allowed Dalton to convert a third-and-6 with an eight-yard scramble. His suspension guarantees a month of uninterrupted healing time for his ankle, after which.
Will Sutton delivered a much-needed stop on a third-and-1 early in the second quarter when the Bears needed a play by someone after a disappointing start on both sides of the football. “Will was a force,” said linemate Ego Ferguson. Sutton, playing extensively at nose tackle with the Goldman and Ratliff injuries, got excellent pad level vs. the bigger Cincinnati linemen.
The loss of two starting defensive linemen – Goldman and Ratliff – did the linebackers and run defense in general no favors. The group turned in a handful of individual impact plays but was not able to consistently get pressure against the Cincinnati offensive line.
Lamarr Houston had his best day since last year’s New England Patriots game when he tore his ACL on a sack celebration. This time Houston, working at right outside linebacker, collected two sacks and was generally strong at the point closing against the run.
Shea McClellin had his name called for three tackles on the initial Cincinnati drive but all were after gains and two after pass completions. His night continued spiraling when he was called for roughing the passer on a blitz of backup quarterback A.J. McCarron in the second quarter.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]
Jared Allen made two open-field stops in the first half, making tackles despite being locked up with Bengals blockers.
After a strong showing against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, Pernell McPhee was an overall non-factor throughout.
The defense was without outside linebacker Sam Acho, who practiced all week but was ill and held out of Saturday’s game. Acho was one of the defensive standouts through the first two preseason games, with a sack and quarterback hit in each game plus one tackle for loss, interception and pass broken up.