The Ravens dominated Cincinnati in nearly every facet of the game and showed the young Bengals exactly how far they need to go if they want to seriously contend for the AFC North title.
OK, so maybe that’s a little pessimistic. After all, the Ravens reached the AFC title game last year and by all rights should have made it to the Super Bowl. They still have one of the best defenses of the league and a quarterback in Joe Flacco who is easily one of the top 10 in the league.
The losers in Week 1 outweigh the winners for the Bengals, but there were still a few positives for the men in stripes. Not many, but a few.
The winners and losers:
Loser—The Bengals pass defense.
Flacco was no different, repeatedly tearing the Bengals apart with pinpoint passing. Leon Hall, the team’s “shutdown” corner, was burned early and often and the safeties were nearly nonexistent.
But you can’t put all of the blame on the secondary. Other than Geno Atkins’ early sack, the Bengals’ front line put little pressure on Flacco and only on blitzes were they even able to get close. What was supposed to be a strength was a serious flaw on Monday night.
Winner—The play of the interior offensive line.
Center Jeff Faine and guards Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler had exactly zero starts for the Bengals heading into the game but more than held their own against a very strong Ravens’ defense. The run game was surprisingly effective and Dalton stayed on his feet for most of the game.
The team should be pleased.
Loser—The lack of a downfield passing game.
A.J. Green was taken out of the game and quarterback Andy Dalton only attempted two downfield passes all night, both of which were overthrown.
Dalton appeared to have plenty of time to throw and wasn’t under pressure until late in the game when the Ravens built the big lead, but the Bengal receivers just seemed to be unable to get open. The Ravens took Green away and dared somebody else to beat them. Nobody did.
Winner—The emergence of Andrew Hawkins.
Hawkins couldn’t make up for Green’s production, but the diminutive receiver showed the kind of playmaker he could possibly be with eight receptions for 86 yards. Nearly all of Hawkins’ damage came on screen passes, but with the ball in his hand, he is a threat to score every time.
Winner—Andy Dalton’s early composure.
One of the things the Bengals liked about Dalton was his unflappable personality. Despite facing a 10-point deficit early on the road, Dalton calmly kept his team in the game with smart decisions. Cincinnati trailed only 17-13 early in the third quarter.
Loser—Andy Dalton’s late composure.
As the game wore on, the Ravens wore on Dalton, who began making mistakes. His interception that was returned by Ed Reed for a touchdown was woefully overthrown and his fumble on the next possession simply was a case of Dalton trying to do too much.
He’ll learn, but he has to play better against elite teams.