Limited to just one series in Thursday night’s preseason finale against Indianapolis, the Cincinnati Bengals first-team offense made the most of its short work with a seven-play, 49-yard touchdown drive.
Rookie Giovani Bernard’s 1-yard touchdown run capped the march and gave the Bengals the lead for good as they rolled to a 27-10 victory before a crowd of 49,229 at Paul Brown Stadium.
With the win, the Bengals improved to 3-1, marking just the fifth time the team has won at least three preseason games since the NFL went to a four-game schedule in 1978.
Indianapolis ended the preseason 2-2.
Despite having starting tackles Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth in street clothes on the sideline with knee injuries, the Bengals offense continued to impress in the run game, rolling up 191 yards.
“We seemed to get to the line of scrimmage quickly and run our plays crisply,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “That’s really what you’re looking for in a game like this.”
Six of the seven plays on the opening drive were rushes, accounting for 31 yards. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hit Mohamed Sanu for 18 yards to convert a third down on his only pass attempt of the game.
“We came out tonight and did what we wanted to do,” Dalton said. “We moved the ball with the first offense, especially running the ball, and we scored a TD.”
The touchdown was Bernard’s third of the preseason, with all three coming on tough, up-the-gut 1-yarders for the 5-foot-9, 208-pounder.
“To me, it’s all about determination and heart,” Bernard said. “How bad do you want that touchdown? I really think anybody should be able to get one yard if you want it bad enough, no matter your size.”
Bernard carried four times for 12 yards and finished the preseason with 27 rushes for 116 yards.
Dan Herron led the Bengals with 51 yards on 12 carries, giving him a team-high 167 yards in the preseason.
Cedric Peerman added 37 yards on six carries, and rookie Rex Burkhead rushed seven times for 10 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run for his first NFL score. Starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis had two rushes for 16 yards.
Even backup quarterback Josh Johnson added to the total with 38 yards on back-to-back scrambles of 21 and 17 and also threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones.
The Bengals also improved in two other key areas that cost them in their 24-18 loss at Dallas on Saturday, converting (9 of 14) third downs and committing only two penalties for 15 yards. They were 2 of 9 on third down against the Cowboys and drew seven flags for 82 yards.
“I feel like we’re ready to go,” he said. “We’ve played well together. I like the new elements we have. And I’m looking forward to going to Chicago.”