Bengals play well most of opener, bungle it away
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap didn't need a whole lot of words to sum it up.
''This one hurts,'' Dunlap said. ''This one really hurts.''
For the second year in a row, the Cincinnati Bengals opened the season with the type of performance that stung a lot.
The Bengals played impressively for the first three quarters in Chicago, moving the ball easily and clamping down on defense. They bungled it away at the end with an avalanche of mistakes that allowed the Bears to rally for a 24-21 win.
Some of the biggest mistakes came from their leading players.
All-Pro receiver A.J. Green let one of Andy Dalton's passes go off his hands for an interception inside the Chicago 20-yard line, thwarting one threat. Mohamed Sanu fumbled the ball inside the Bears' 20-yard line after a catch, setting up Chicago's go-ahead touchdown drive.
During that drive, the defense twice had to use timeouts because it had the wrong number of players on the field, leaving the Bengals with no opportunity to stop the clock in the closing minutes.
And, finally, the most notable gaffe: With the Bears set to punt the ball with 1:06 to go, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga - a team captain last season - threw a defender to the ground, drawing a penalty that let Chicago run out the clock.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick also drew a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul that set up Chicago's 58-yard field goal to close the first half.
Simply, the Bengals lost their composure at key moments. Both Kirkpatrick and Maualuga exchanged words and pushes with a defender, letting it escalate until they were penalized.
''I don't want to see our guys do that,'' coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday. ''They know better than that. They've never been that way, so we have to get it on the right page quickly.
''It's plain and simple. It's no revolutionary thing. You can't be the second offender.''
What made it so painful was that it ruined some really good moments in the first three quarters. Andy Dalton completed 79 percent of his passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns to Green. He also had the two interceptions, including the one that deflected off Green's hands.
''That's a catch that A.J. will make 100 times out of 101,'' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said on Monday. ''If you're going to be targeted that many times a year, you're going to have a drop or two.''
The Bengals had touchdown drives of 97, 91 and 80 yards against one of the NFL's top defenses, an impressive performance by any measure.
''I don't know if I've ever been around when you have a 97-yard drive, a 91-yard drive and an 80-yard touchdown drive,'' Lewis said.
In the end, it didn't matter. When the Bengals set their goals at the start of the season, one of them was to learn how to close out tough games on the road against premier teams. They wasted their first chance to do it.
''We were pretty good against a pretty good defense, but just not good enough,'' Gruden said.
NOTES: Lewis said LT Andrew Whitworth, who sat out the opener as he recovers from offseason surgery on his left knee, might be ready to play in the home opener next Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. ... LB Vontaze Burfict had a sore right leg on Monday, but Lewis thinks he'll be able to play against the Steelers. Burfict took a helmet to the side of the left knee as he was tackled following an interception, but returned to the game.
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