Josh Johnson, who directed two second-quarter touchdown drives, made big plays as a passer and runner as he opened the competition for the Bengals’ backup quarterback job.
Bernard, a second-round pick from North Carolina, played behind returning starter Benjarvus Green-Ellis and had 10 carries for 28 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run. He added three catches for 16 yards.
Johnson, going against John Skelton for the backup job behind Andy Dalton, passed for 100 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown to Brandon Tate, and ran for 64 yards.
Dane Sanzenbacher had a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 36-yard scoring catch from Skelton.
Green-Ellis had three carries for 14 yards. Johnson was 9-of-16 for 100 yards with one touchdown.
The first preseason game highlighted the Falcons’ concerns about their rebuilt offensive line. Jackson found little blocking as he had five carries for only 8 yards.
Atlanta lost projected starting right tackle Mike Johnson, likely for the season, when he dislocated his left ankle and broke his left leg in Tuesday’s practice.
Lamar Holmes, a second-year player who appeared in only one game in 2012, moved up as the starting right tackle. Undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder played behind Holmes. The Falcons released right tackle Tyson Clabo after the 2012 season and longtime starting center Todd McClure retired.
Johnson led the Bengals to 17 second-quarter points. Following his scoring pass to Tate, Johnson directed a second touchdown drive capped by Bernard’s 1-yard run.
Lined up deep in the I-formation, Bernard showed his explosiveness by quickly building his speed even before taking the handoff from Johnson and then running straight ahead for the touchdown with 2 seconds remaining in the half.
The Falcons had a fast start. Matt Ryan was 3-for-3 for 52 yards on Atlanta’s opening drive, his first with Jackson at running back. Jackson, the former Rams standout, was signed to replace Michael Turner.
On the first play of the game, Jackson ran straight ahead, found no room and cut right for 4 yards. It was his longest run of the night.
Harry Douglas turned a screen pass from Ryan into a 42-yard gain, but the drive stalled when Geno Atkins stuffed Jackson on third-and-2 run from the 16, forcing the Falcons to settle for Matt Bryant’s 37-yard field goal.
Ryan remained in the game for two more series. He was 6-of-9 for 89 yards.
Dalton played only two possessions and went 3-of-7 for 36 yards.
Dominique Davis, mostly ineffective after replacing Ryan in the first half, led a third-quarter touchdown drive capped by his 8-yard pass to Jason Snelling. Davis went 8-of-19 for 78 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Skelton took over for Johnson late in the third quarter and led a 78-yard touchdown drive finished off with his 36-yard scoring pass to Sanzenbacher, a third-year player who had only one catch in 2012.