The return of wide receiver Marcus Robinson on Saturday, complete with two touchdown passes from Cade McNown on the Bears' first two possessions, was overshadowed by a defensive performance marked by some of the same problems that caused the Bears to rank 29th in defense last season.
The Bears (2-1) had allowed no touchdowns in two previous exhibition games but with no pass rush were beaten by Akili Smith and the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) for three in 10 minutes in the first half.
A 14-0 first-quarter lead dissolved in a run of four scores in five Cincinnati possessions in a 24-20 Bengals win before a crowd of 56,180 in the first game in Paul Brown Stadium.
The offense helped the unraveling with two turnovers that led to 10 points and uncharacteristic penalties that negated key gains and ended drives. A 12-yard touchdown run by undrafted free-agent running back Marlon Barnes that would have tied the score in the fourth quarter was called back because of an illegal block.
In the second quarter, McNown threw into double coverage and was intercepted, leading to one Bengals touchdown. The second half began with a botched center exchange that set up a Cincinnati field goal.
The lack of a pass rush after three games, even if they are exhibitions, is now officially a problem. No starting Bears defensive lineman, linebacker or defensive back has a sack through their portions of three exhibition games.
This game began to change with the Bears ahead 14-0 late in the first quarter when Cincinnati began to get pressure on Cade McNown while the Bears were getting none on Smith.
After the Bears' second score, Smith completed five of his next six passes as the Bengals moved from their 32 to the Chicago 14. Rookie Peter Warrick, the third-overall pick of the 2000 draft, then circled around from left end, took a handoff from Smith and scored easily.
Smith, standing at times for as long as five seconds untouched, completed four straight passes on his next possession. The last found tight end Tony McGee wide open in the middle for a touchdown to tie the game at 14.
McNown, who played into the third quarter, then was intercepted. The return was to the Chicago 41.
Smith resumed picking the Bears apart on three straight completions before a pass interference penalty by cornerback Jerry Azumah put the ball at the Chicago 3. One play later, rookie wideout Ron Dugans, a Florida State teammate of Warrick, wound up matched against linebacker Warrick Holdman and scored the Bengals' third unanswered touchdown.
Rookie Paul Edinger helped his chances in his kicking competition with Jaret Holmes with a 40-yard field goal just before halftime to make the score 21-17. Holmes bounced a 25-yard field goal off the right upright in the fourth quarter. Edinger's try from 54 yards later in the period was short and wide, ending a streak of eight successful kicks.
The evening's good news was Robinson, who made his first preseason appearance memorable after missing the wins over New York and Cleveland with a strained abdominal muscle. Robinson, whose 1,400 receiving yards last year were a franchise record, picked up where he left off with quarterback Cade McNown and scored on two 45-yard passes in the first quarter.
Robinson scored on the Bears' fifth play from scrimmage when McNown rolled left at the Cincinnati 45 away from a blitz and found Robinson alone deep in the secondary, hitting him in stride for the touchdown.
The second Bears score, eight plays later, came on a screen pass that Robinson caught at the Cincinnati 44, then picked his way through clutter with help from a block by guard Rex Tucker and outran the Cincinnati secondary to the end zone.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times