A.J. Green, Bengals Hold Off Ravens to Win 34-23 on Thursday Night Football

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2018

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 13:  A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs on his way to scoring a 32-yard receiving touchdown during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on September 13, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals parlayed an explosive first half into a 34-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens in their home opener at Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday night. 

Quarterback Andy Dalton picked up where he left off Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts and went 24-of-42 passing for 265 yards and four touchdowns, three of which landed in the waiting arms of No. 1 wide receiver A.J. Green, to push the Bengals' record to 2-0. 

Joe Flacco captained Baltimore's offense to less spectacular results and finished 32-of-55 for 377 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Ravens dropped to 1-1 following a blowout of the Buffalo Bills. 

             

High-Octane Bengals Offense Proves Week 1 Was No Fluke

Entering Week 1, the Bengals were expected to pick apart a Colts defense that ranked 30th in total yards allowed and opponents scoring last season. 

And for the most part, they did. 

Cincinnati's offense accounted for 27 points and 330 total yards in the opener, and Dalton completed passes to eight different receivers as the air and ground games met little resistance inside Lucas Oil Stadium. 

That said, it was fair to expect regression Thursday. 

Not only did the Ravens clamp down on the Buffalo's woeful attack in a dominant 47-3 showing, but the Bengals got blanked in their home tilt with Baltimore a year ago—and that futility figured to be hard to shake. 

As it turns out, though, the Bengals didn't have any problems moving the ball even with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard limited to a combined 3.9 yards per carry. 

Dalton was in a groove early, and he funneled targets to Green, Tyler Boyd (six catches, 91 yards, 1 TD) and his tight end tandem of C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Eifert to keep the chains moving.

And while the Bengals' scoring deluge slowed after they dropped 28 first-half points, Dalton orchestrated a clutch 10-play, 65-yard drive that ate up 6 minutes, 35 seconds to put Cincinnati up eight with 2:59 remaining in regulation. 

Dalton has long been a high-variance performer, of course, but his blossoming relationship with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor appears to have Cincinnati's offense trending in the right direction following a couple of years of futility. 

            

C.J. Mosley's Value Shows After Injury Derails Ravens Defense

The Bengals opened Thursday's AFC North clash by going three-and-out. 

Then, Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was carted off with a bone bruise in his knee, and the floodgates opened. 

Cincinnati scored touchdowns on each of its next four possessions with Mosley in the locker room and, as it turns out, those scores helped the Bengals mount an insurmountable lead that forced the Ravens into catch-up mode throughout the second half. 

Now, all eyes in Baltimore will turn to Mosley's status. 

While the Ravens appear to have dodged a bullet since initial tests indicated Mosley avoided ligament damage, he's at risk of missing time all the same. 

And considering Mosley is coming off a campaign that saw him log 132 combined tackles and three forced fumbles while playing 98.5 percent of Baltimore's defensive snaps, the Ravens figure to be operating at a serious deficit defensively as long as he's ailing. 

           

A.J. Green Reminds League He's Elite WR with Career Night

Before the 2018 season kicked off, A.J. Green made it clear he was intent on reminding everyone of his greatness with Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown and Julio Jones dominating the conversation as to who the NFL's elite wide receivers are. 

"That's what motivates me," he told Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne. "A lot of people don't put me as the best—top five or whatever. I'm striving to be the best ever. If I play the years I want to play, and I keep the streak I'm on now, there's no doubt that I'll be one of the best."

On Thursday, Green looked every bit as dominant as his contemporaries. 

After recording six receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, the seven-time Pro Bowler kept his foot on the gas with five receptions for 69 yards and a career-high three scores. 

And not only did Green score three times, but he did so in historically expedient fashion, according to ESPN Stats & Info: 

Consider that a wake-up call for the rest of the NFL.  

    

What's Next? 

The Bengals will look to improve to 3-0 on Sunday, Sept. 23, when they play host to the Carolina Panthers. The Ravens will also be at home in Week 3 for a showdown with Case Keenum and the Denver Broncos. 

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