Bengals vs. Cowboys: Dallas receivers shine, Cincinnati secondary crumbles

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals' defense had no answers for Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, who are on their way to becoming one of the league's top receiving duos.

After a couple weeks of stutter steps to begin the preseason, the first-string offense of the Dallas Cowboys finally showcased how dangerous it can be during an impressive 24-18 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday night.

Tony Romo threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns, DeMarco Murray found the end zone and Dez Bryant looked to be in midseason form as the Cowboys improved to 2-1 in preseason play.

While the burgeoning star Bryant has been all the talk in Dallas, and his 54 yards and a touchdown on Saturday certainly legitimized that, fellow wideout Miles Austin had a strong performance himself. Austin racked up 59 yards and a score of his own, prompting Tom Ryle at Blogging the Boys to wonder if the former Pro Bowler is set up for a big year.

There was a tremendous amount of attention paid to Bryant in camp, because he was simply a beast. He is unquestionably the most potent weapon in the receiving arsenal for the Cowboys. The spotlight on him this year is certainly deserved, but it served to divert attention from the fact that Miles Austin is healthy and looking like the star receiver he was a few seasons ago.

If Saturday night was any indication, the duo of Bryant and Austin could provide Romo with a devastating one-two punch this season. The quarterback came out feeding Bryant on the first scoring drive, going to him five consecutive times and capping things off with a touchdown reception. With the defense locked into Bryant, Romo then came back to complete the following drive with a touchdown pass to Austin.

On the flip side, the Bengals' secondary looked wholly unable to deal with the Cowboys' passing attack. Josh Kirkendall at Cincy Jungle is concerned with what he saw out of several of the Bengals defensive players.

Let's start with Dre Kirkpatrick, who was called for multiple pass interference penalties, allowed a touchdown to the bigger Dez Bryant in the second quarter, then missed missed another tackle when DeMarco Murray scored a seven-yard touchdown reception to give Dallas a 21-10 lead. While complaining about the performance, remind yourself that Kirkpatrick's career is only five games old. There's time to improve. And he will.

But Kirkpatrick wasn't alone either. Miles Austin picked up 23 yards late in the second quarter on a third-and-six with Leon Hall trailing the receiver. That was after Austin converted another third down by spinning away from Hall on a pass well short of the first down marker. With over 40 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Romo found Austin over the middle for a touchdown with Taylor Mays trailing.

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