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Bengals hold off Falcons 24-19

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith wants his team to stop committing penalties.

Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis wants his team to play smarter and focus on details.

Both coaches have two more preseason games to get their players' attention.

Led by quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals had just enough offense to beat the Falcons 24-19 Thursday night.

Dalton and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan each directed a pair of scoring drives before Cincinnati's reserves held on to help the Bengals win a matchup of teams that lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs last season.

Cincinnati (No. 14 in the AP Pro32) had the deeper roster.

The second- and third-string players for Atlanta (No. 13) struggled in the second half for the second straight week, and Smith has seen enough of the penalties.

The Falcons have committed 21 penalties for 242 yards over the past two weeks. Smith refused to blame replacement officials despite a couple of questionable calls.

"We never comment about officiating," Smith said. "It doesn't matter who is calling the game. I know that we've got to fix the amount of penalties that we are committing. You can't have 21 penalties in two ballgames and be the type of football team that we want to be."

Lewis liked what he saw from his team in the first half, but there are still plenty of issues to address.

"Our execution was crisp overall and of course the pass from Andy to A.J. was good," Lewis said of his team's first-half performance. "But we also had two dropped balls. You can never let that get into your program. Defensively, we got a couple of tipped balls, which was good, but you've got to come down with those and get the turnovers."

Ryan, who completed his first 11 attempts, finished 18 of 21 for 174 yards and one touchdown, a 2-yard screen pass to reserve fullback Lousaka Polite in the second quarter.

Spreading out the offense and connecting with nine different receivers, Ryan completed passes of at least 20 yards to Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Michael Palmer.

Dalton was 8 of 14 for 125 yards and one TD, a 50-yard pass that Green caught while running past cornerback Asante Samuel down the right sideline.

It was just the kind of preseason result that Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has been seeking. Gruden's training camp emphasis for Dalton has been to improve his accuracy on deep balls.

"I'm surprised they left A.J. one-on-one in that situation," Dalton said, "but I'm glad they did."

Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham limped off the field in the first quarter with a right knee injury. After the game, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, "He's going to be fine."

Cincinnati's offense began the night with starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis out with a foot injury and his top backup, Bernard Scott, sidelined by a sore hand.

The Bengals lost starting left guard Travelle Wharton to a season-ending knee injury in last week's preseason win over the New York Jets.

Atlanta's Michael Turner had three carries for minus-3 yards. Turner's best gain was an 8-yard completion on a screen pass.

Falcons coach Mike Smith wasn't concerned about Turner's lack of production because the plan was for Ryan to air out the passing game and spread the ball around.

"We really wanted to look at the passing game," Smith said. "It was moreso of an emphasis of what we wanted to do. There were some nice opportunities."

Samuel, the veteran Atlanta acquired in an April trade with Philadelphia, seemed to celebrate prematurely after his coverage contributed to a short incompletion that Dalton threw too high for Green.

On the next snap, Green ran straight downfield on a "go" route and easily beat Samuel with a double move to make an over-the-shoulder catch that put the Bengals up 10-3.

Green believes the play will inspire some of the team's new receivers. He saw as much from Marvin Jones, a rookie from Cal who caught a 42-yard pass from third-string quarterback Zac Robinson.

"They are young and they are hungry," Green said. "Anybody can make a play at any time. Several of those guys can make plays all around the ball."

Ryan answered Green's TD with a nine-play, 88-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown catch by Polite. An over-the-middle pass on the previous snap to Jones, last year's No. 6 overall draft pick, covered 23 yards.

The game was tied 10-all when Ryan and Dalton left the game late in the second quarter.

Chris Redman took over for Atlanta, directing a nine-play drive that ended with Matt Bryant's 22-yard field goal and gave the Falcons a 13-10 halftime lead.

Bruce Gradkowski, the Bengals' No. 2 quarterback, helped Cincinnati take a 17-13 lead early in the third on a 12-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mohamed Sanu.

In the fourth quarter, Jourdan Brooks' 1-yard touchdown run gave the Bengals a 24-13 lead. Atlanta made it 24-19 late in the fourth when LaMark Brown caught a 7-yard TD pass from Dominique Davis. The Falcons' 2-point conversion pass failed.

Mike Nugent kicked a 54-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 3-0 lead on the fourth drive of the game. Bryant tied it at 3-all with a 20-yarder early in the second quarter.

Before Atlanta (0-2) visits Miami for a preseason game next week, Smith said the Falcons will focus harder on avoiding penalties. Over the past two games, they have combined for 21 penalties for 242 yards.

The Bengals (2-0) will host Green Bay.

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