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Landover, Md. — Head coach Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals got their first preseason win Thursday night.

Here are the three most important things we learned from the 23-13 Bengals win over the Washington Redskins:

Flags galore

Cincinnati committed seven penalties in the first quarter.

The first quarter expired with the Bengals having four fewer penalty yards (60) than total yards (64).

“I thought offensively, I don’t know how I feel about it. It was strange,” Taylor said after the game. “But I do know we had too many penalties in the first quarter for us to win a football game. So that was a bad way to start.”

Andy Dalton and the starting offense never really found a rhythm in three drives in large part because of the flags that littered the field.

“We had way too many penalties. It’s one of those things where we have to really look at ourselves. We can’t have that,” Dalton said. “We can’t set ourselves back. It was tough to get into a rhythm.” 

Offsetting penalties, a hold on TE C.J. Uzomah and a lowering the head to initiate contact call on Washington S Montae Nicholson, nullified Joe Mixon’s best run of the night. Mixon found space to the outside and cleared out Washington CB Josh Norman with a strong stiff arm to gain 14 yards. The stiff arm was good enough to be on a highlight reel. Unfortunately, for highlight seekers, it didn’t count. 

Mixon finished with one carry for three yards.

Dalton was 5-of-9 for 36 yards and an interception.

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Takeaways from the Bengals 23-13 NFL preseason win over Washington.
Albert Cesare and Tyler Dragon, Cincinnati Enquirer

Ryan Finley, Drew Sample and Germaine Pratt impress

It was a good night for a trio of Bengals rookies. Ryan Finley, Drew Sample and Germaine Pratt performed well.

Finley passed his biggest test yet. The rookie competed against second-string defenders for the majority of the night, and he did so successfully.

“He was very cool and calm. We’ve got a lot of confidence with him in there,” Taylor said of Finley. “I thought he did a nice job.”

Finley finished his second-ever NFL game going 20-of-26 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns, resulting in a 115.9 passer rating.

“It was a lot of fun getting out there. I thought we had some really good drives,” Finley said. “(When) I was in there, I thought Jordan (Ellis) ran the ball really well and just really balanced, made it east to call plays. I thought it was fun for Drew Sample to get his first touchdown and then banging that one on (Auden) Tate, that was a really good catch by him.”

The backup quarterback job is officially Finley’s to lose.

Pratt was tied for second on the team with three tackles. The linebacker was often involved around the ball and nearly sacked Redskins QB Dwyane Haskins.

Sample struggled as a pass catcher to begin training camp but showed growth as a receiver. The rookie tight end had a nice grab where he extended his arms and caught a difficult ball as he fell to the ground for a 10-yard reception. The catch was easily Sample’s best thus far.

The former Washington Huskies tight end had two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown on the night.

Special teams improvements

The special teams unit rebounded after last week’s turnover-filled effort in the return game.

“Special teams I thought stepped up and had a much better game. I’m pleased to see those guys,” Zac Taylor said.

Returner Alex Erickson had a 75-yard punt return touchdown to put the game on ice.

“If you’re going to be out there, you might as well give it your all and make a play. We were able to do that, and it ended up being a big play in the game,” Erickson said. “The special teams showed up big tonight and it helped us win the game.”

Darius Phillips even bounced back after his forgettable game in Kansas City where he muffed a punt. Phillips had three kick returns for 88 yards in Thursday’s win.