Bengals lose, fans snooze

Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis gestured as he talked to wide receiver Chad Ochocinco during the first quarter.
Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis gestured as he talked to wide receiver Chad Ochocinco during the first quarter. AP

CANTON, Ohio — That thud coming from Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game? The pre-season excitement that the Cincinnati Bengals generated when they landed free-agent receiver Terrell Owens to join Chad Ochocinco.

In a thoroughly dull exhibition opener for the Bengals, the Dallas Cowboys romped 16-7 before a sellout crowd of 22,364 at Fawcett Stadium.

At least the Bengals scored. Jordan Palmer, who threw two interceptions, hit Darius Hill with a 1-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.

Of course, "skill position" starters for both teams made only cameo appearances. Expectations can become silly this time of year.

Fans will be fans, though. Fanatical.

Owens, Ochocinco and quarterback Carson Palmer played one quarter — two possessions — in a game that Dallas led 6-0 at halftime.

Palmer finished 2-for-5, good for 18 yards, and was sacked once.

Both receptions were made by Owens, who was the target of four of Palmer's passes. The other went to Ochocinco.

"We're a work in progress," Owens said. "We're getting there. It felt just like practice.

"I don't think there was a plan to throw to me early. He just assessed the defense and took what they gave him."

Cedric Benson carried the ball two times for 7 yards.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo played just one series, going 5-for-10 for 59 yards. He led the Cowboys to a 20-yard David Buehler field goal.

A key play came on third-and-12, with Romo hitting Roy Williams over the middle for a 21-yard gain to the Cincinnati 19.

With first-and-goal at the 5, Romo handed off to Felix Jones — who fumbled into the end zone. Leon Hall recovered for the Bengals. However, the turnover was negated because Jonathan Fanene had lined up offsides.

With a first down from the 2, Romo tossed three straight incompletions before Buehler came on.

"It felt good to get out there," Romo said. "We were able to move around a little and get into a rhythm. Some of the things we were working on in training camp carried over and it was nice to see that we were able to move the ball."

The Bengals notched a first down on each of their first two drives, but only one more the rest of the half. Cincinnati did not convert any of its six third-down plays in the half.

"I think it was a good test against the Bengals," Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking said. "They have a strong running game and a vertical passing game with a lot of threats on the outside. We were able to get our feet wet in six plays, but I thought we were fundamentally sound and the effort was great. Those are the two main ingredients you look for in the pre-season."

Buehler added a 34-yard field goal with 6:11 left in the half and a 23-yarder with 9:03 left in the third quarter to make it 9-0. The latter was set up by Brandon Williams' interception and return of a Jordan Palmer pass.

Jordan Palmer did direct the Bengals deep into Dallas territory as the third quarter ended.

However, 13 seconds into the fourth quarter, Cordera Eason fumbled. Josh Brent recovered for the Cowboys on the Dallas 11-yard line.

Eason, a rookie out of Ole Miss, also injured his right foot on the play.

The ensuing Dallas drive ended with a punt by Mat McBriar — downed at the Cincinnati 1-yard line.

That set up a Cowboys touchdown as Brandon Sharpe picked off a Jordan Palmer pass and returned it 6 yards to the end zone. Buehler's PAT made it 16-0 with 9:23 left.

■ Bengals fullback Brian Leonard went down late in the first half. The initial diagnosis was a mid-foot sprain of his left foot. He will be reevaluated in Cincinnati.

Safety Chris Crocker (right ankle) left the game in the first quarter and did not return.

■ For the Cowboys, wide receiver Titus Ryan suffered a broken left thumb. Tight end Kevin Brock and tackle Alex Barron both suffered ankle sprains, and tight end John Phillips (right knee) also left the game.