The Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens played a typical AFC North game on Sunday.
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t very fun to watch, but that’s what happens when these two teams square off. The last three scores were 17-14, 17-7, and Sunday’s 15-10—all Bengals victories.
The Bengals had to step up their physicality ten-fold after a disappointing performance against the Patriots.
After having a non-existent pass-rush in Week 1, the Bengals front four was in Joe Flacco's face all day. They had 15 QB pressures from 11 different players, one sack and nine hurries.
The results were evident—four INTs for a very opportunistic defense.
The secondary was back to its old self. Leon Hall played like a top tier corner and the lone Baltimore TD, a 31-yard bomb to Derrick Mason, was the only time Jonathan Joseph got beaten on the day. Adam Jones even had his first pick since ’08.
More importantly for Bengal fans was this stat: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, six targets, zero receptions.
Flacco had possibly the worst game in his three-year career. His footwork and mechanics were puzzlingly awful. He finished with a dreadful line: 17/39 for 154 yards and a 23.8 QB rating.
Ray Rice curiously only had 16 carries for the Ravens. He finished with 87 yards and another 30 yards through receptions.
Considering how explosive Rice can be, you have to be satisfied with those numbers if you’re the Bengals. Especially when you factor in the lack of production from the rest of the offense (259 total yards).
The offense on the other hand…. well, um, it wasn’t good.
Carson Palmer was throwing balls high or wide, too hard or too soft. It wasn’t pretty. Terrell Owens had three receptions—on 11 targets! Awful.
The Ravens secondary is the biggest weakness of the team, and Palmer failed to take advantage of it. He reverted to his game manager role of last season. Lots of check downs and balls thrown away.
The Bengals went 3-for-18 in converting third downs. No wonder they couldn’t score any TDs.
On 13 of those third downs, the Bengals needed eight yards or more to convert. The seven offensive penalties on third down didn’t really help. That needs to be addressed in every practice this week.
There has been plenty of controversy regarding a tripping penalty on Ray Lewis and a pass interference call on Terrell Suggs. Both plays were questionable and hopefully the penalty gods don’t come back to haunt the Bengals later in the season.
But it’s not like the Bengals won based on those two calls (unlike that horrendous pass interference call on Justin Smith against the Buccaneers in ’06).
Jordan Shipley had a rookie moment when he ran a seven-yard route on a third and eight. Chad Ochocinco beat Fabian Washington and should have had an easy TD; too bad the ball sailed over his head. Jermaine Gresham needs to improve his blocking. He whiffed on a few.
Cedric Benson managed 78 yards on 23 carries. He took what the defense gave him and didn’t put the ball on the ground. That’s as much as you could ask for.
Special teams were great, as kicker Mike Nugent was a perfect five-for-five on field goals. He also kicked three touchbacks, unheard of when Shayne Graham was around. He was the player of the game in a battle of field goals.
The runner-up might have been Bernard Scott. After a Ravens field goal, the Bengals were down 10-9 with around five minutes remaining.
Scott’s 60-yard kick return set up the game winner and completely swung the momentum pendulum in favor of the home team.
The defense and special teams stepped up in a big way. Both units won back fans. The other side of the ball is a concern. It was only the fifth time in franchise history that the Bengals didn’t score a TD and they won the game.
It’s a bit early to panic about the offense, but why not try going back to the no-huddle? Worth a shot with the way they have played so far.
In the end, a hard-fought win and a sigh of relief. 1-1 is much better than 0-2.