Marvin Lewis only needed to see a few plays from Andy Dalton to feel good about his starting quarterback — and the new contract that will keep him in Cincinnati for a while.
Dalton was sharp in the Bengals' preseason opener Thursday night, hitting A.J. Green on a deep pass to set up the game's opening field goal. And while he watched the rest of the night as the Kansas City Chiefs rallied for a 41-39 victory, the short stint left an impression.
"I liked the crispness of the first units," Lewis said. "Andy looked good."
As for the rest of the show?
"You can't have the sort of explosive plays we gave up," Lewis said.
Sean Smith and Malcolm Bronson returned interceptions for scores, and De'Anthony Thomas brought back a punt 80 yards for another touchdown. Kansas City added two more offensive scores and a couple of field goals before holding on in the waning seconds for the win.
Dalton, whose six-year deal could keep him with Cincinnati through the 2020 season, said he knew that there would be a lot of attention on him given the news of the week.
"So it felt good to get out there and have things go pretty well, even though it was brief," he said. "We hit a couple passes to A.J. but of course we would have liked to have finished it off with a touchdown instead of a field goal."
Dalton quickly gave way to backup Jason Campbell, and he was just 6 of 15 for 72 yards. And while he threw a pair of TD passes, Campbell also was responsible for the touchdowns by Smith and Bronson before getting banged up midway through the third quarter and exiting the game.
"Jason had an errant throw early," Lewis said, "but he came back and made a couple plays."
The Bengals were forced to use several backups to plug holes caused by injury. Starting offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling and Andre Smith, tight end Jermaine Gresham, wide receiver Marvin Jones and defensive tackle Geno Atkins all sat out the game.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry and defensive tackle Mike DeVito also did not suit up.
Alex Smith, in negotiations on his own long-term deal, struggled along with the rest of the Chiefs' first-team offense. They went three-and-out on their opening series, and Smith was strip-sacked on their next possession to set up Campbell's short TD toss to Brandon Tate.
"That's certainly not playing up to our expectations," Smith said. "You have to bounce back. You have to have a short memory in this league. Mistakes are going to happen."
Albert Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to set up Ryan Succop's short field for Kansas City. After the Bengals stalled on their next possession, Thomas fielded the punt and spun away from Kirkpatrick before racing 80 yards for a tying touchdown.
On the next offensive play, Campbell was intercepted by Sean Smith — a former starter trying to win his job back — and he returned it 36 yards to give Kansas City a 17-10 lead.
"I had tight coverage. He slipped a little bit and the ball was placed in a position where it was 50-50 for both of us," Smith said. "I guess I wanted it more."
Kirkpatrick atoned for his special teams flub when he intercepted a badly thrown ball by Chiefs backup Chase Daniel and returned it 40 yards for a TD. And after the Chiefs added another field goal, Campbell connected with Dane Sanzenbacher for another score and a 24-20 lead.
In the waning seconds of the half, Daniel found tight end Travis Kelce running open down the seam. The tight end, who missed his rookie season to injury, hauled in the 69-yard TD pass.
Bronson returned his pick-6 early in the second half to give the Chiefs a 34-24 lead, and the teams traded fourth-quarter TDs before Cincinnati scored another touchdown in the final seconds.
"There were a lot of good things and some things we need work on," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "but we'll get those corrected. That's why we're doing the preseason here."
Notes: Bengals first-round pick Darqueze Dennard made a sack on a cornerback blitz early in the game. He later left with an undisclosed injury. ... Dalton finished 3 of 5 for 71 yards. Smith was 3 of 5 for 19 yards. ... Succop and Cairo Santos, in a battle for the Chiefs kicking job, each hit their only field-goal attempt.
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