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Driskel rallies Bengals past Buccaneers in preseason opener as 1st-team performance mixed

Jeff Driskel runs for a TD in Friday's preseason opener against Tampa Bay (WKRC/Tony Tribble).

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Bengals first-team defense got pushed around, their first-string quarterback threw an interception at the goal line on his lone drive of the game and rookie running back Joe Mixon flashed the ability he had shown throughout training camp.

Despite those first two things Cincinnati trailed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just 3-0 when substitutes began being liberally sprinkled into the action on both sides of the ball. When those subs finally played things out the Bengals won their preseason opener 23-12 before a crowd announced as 44,495 (tickets distributed) on Friday in Paul Brown Stadium.

“I thought our team did OK," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "Our first-team offense looked sharp and crisp overall, but defensively, we are going to have to do better tackling the ball carrier and holding our opponents on third-downs.”

Third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel led the Bengals on touchdown drives on their first two possessions of the second half to rally them from a 9-6 halftime deficit.

The scoring drives covered 75 and 84 yards with Driskel going 5 for 5 for 83 yards and a touchdown passing and rushing three times for 36 yards and a touchdown.

His 18-yard touchdown run with 10:55 left in the third quarter put the Bengals up 13-9, and then his eight-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Josh Malone with 44 seconds left in the quarter made it 20-12.

Randy Bullock completed the scoring with a 49-yard field goal with 2:48 left in the game. He made a 54-yard attempt in the first half.

Tampa Bay drove 92 yards in 14 plays on the opening drive of the game, but had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo when veteran Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, who did not start, forced incompletions on back-to-back pass plays from the Bengals 2 by Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston to standout Mike Evans.

“They moved the ball on us, but we held them in the red zone when it counted," said veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap. "That’s something to build on, and something to take pride in. We’ll live with that, but we’ll fix it, clean up the mistakes and not give up as many yards moving forward.”

Winston was 5 of 8 for 79 yards on the drive and played one more series, finishing 9 of 13 for 99 yards.

The Buccaneers were 3 of 5 on third-down conversions with Winston in the game.

The Bengals responded to the opening Tampa Bay field goal with a solid first drive of their own, moving from their own 25 to the Buccaneers 2 in 11 plays where they faced third-and-goal. Quarterback Andy Dalton then attempted to hit Brandon LaFell in the front right corner of the end zone, but was intercepted by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves who stepped out at the Buccaneers 1.

It was the lone series of the night for Dalton, who had completed his first four passes for 38 yards. Two of his completions went to A.J. Green for 21 yards.

“We moved the ball really well rushing and passing," said Dalton. "It felt good to get back out there in a game situation, but you don’t like to turn the ball over, especially on the goal line. I just wish I could have that last play back.”

When the Bengals next got the ball back with 13:16 left in the first half AJ McCarron replaced Dalton at quarterback, but was playing behind the starting offensive line that featured Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle, Clint Boling at left guard, Russell Bodine at center, Trey Hopkins at right guard in place of Andre Smith, who dressed but did not play, and Jake Fisher at right tackle.

McCarron overcame a face mask penalty on wide receiver Cody Core on the first play from scrimmage that put the offense in a first-and-21 hole by completing a 16-yard pass to Core and an eight-yard pass to Tyler Boyd on third-and-four.

Mixon, whose first carry of the game on the opening series went for five yards, then took a short pass in the left flat from McCarron and made three defenders miss to gain 11 yards and ripped off a six-yard run to take the ball to the Tampa Bay 35.

The drive stalled, but Bullock tied the score at 3-3 with his 54-yard field goal with 9:12 left in the first half.

Former Bengals quarteback Ryan Fitzpatrick then entered the game in place of Winston for the Buccaneers and he led the Buccaneers on 13-play, 62-yard drive that was culminated by him scrambling six yards up the middle for a touchdown. Aguayo's extra point attempt hit the right upright making it 9-3 Tampa Bay.

The Bengals got a 45-yard field goal by rookie kicker Jake Elliott with 1:04 remaining in the first half to pull them within 9-6 at halftime.

Mixon had runs of eight and 13 yards on the drive and finished the first half with a team-high 31 yards rushing on six carries. Hill had 26 yards rushing on seven carries in the half. Neither played in the second half.

The Bengals were outgained in the first half 206-143 and allowed 13 first downs while gaining eight.

WATCH FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS HERE

NOTEWORTHY: Darqueze Dennard started in place of Jones at right cornerback and William Jackson III started in place of Dre Kirkpatrick at the other. None of it was injury related. Kirkpatrick did not dress. ... Rookie defensive end Jordan Willis recorded a sack in the first half. ... Rookie running back Tra Carson was back on kickoff returns in the first half with Alex Erickson. ... The Bengals didn't punt until the fourth quater and recently acquired Will Monday did the punting on both ocassions, one that he got to roll out of bounds at the Tampa Bay 4. ... Two plays after teammate Bene Benwikere batted down a pass that free agent safety Demetrious Cox would have interception, Cox intercepted a Fitzpatrick pass at the Bengals 11 in the fourth quarter.

INJURY UPDATE: It was announced before the game that the following players would not participate due to injuries: It was announced before the game that the following players would not participate, most due to injury: wide receiver John Ross (shoulder); running back Giovani Bernard (returning from knee surgery); Kirkpatrick; cornerback Tony McRae; running back Cedric Peerman (hamstring); safety Brandon Wilson (hamstring); safety George Iloka (sprained knee); defensive tackle David Dean and tight end C.J. Uzomah (sprained ankle).

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