Another week, another game full of question marks and a few positives, am I right? In a game that should have been filled with celebration, resurgence, and pride, we saw glimpses of greatness and more lack of identity. Today was a day that held some hype.
Cincinnati’s number two All-Time leading receiver, A.J. Green was in the building and what should have been a celebration of his retirement looked as if he needed to be on the field one last time.
Now before the Bengals faithful start yelling at me like they did last week, I will say that this game showed so much more than last week did. In fact, through four quarters, there was only one serious question that needed to be asked: Is Joe Burrow Healthy or is he just disconnected right now? Let’s break down each quarter.
FINAL SCORE: Ravens 27, Bengals 24
There were two glaring issues with the first fifteen minutes of this game
The offense, once again, left something to be desired. Things started slow and the comment that “eight out of the Bengals’ first sixteen drives this season have ended in punts” was made. For a team with this much talent, that reality needs to be inexcusable inside their locker room. The players must be sure to hold themselves accountable for how they start games.
The second? The run defense started better but the front seven missed a prime opportunity to make an example of Baltimore’s injury-riddled offensive line. The Ravens absolutely love to chew the clock with each possession. As a matter of fact, their first drive took just over half of the first quarter. This is easily prevented with an effort to expose the holes in their line early and often. At times the pressure was there but it wasn’t relentless.
There was a big-time turnover that was negated by a penalty but it did help shift the momentum of the game. In fact, right after that penalty was a crucial stop on third and five that led to a punt return touchdown by rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones. Fast forward to the 3-minute mark in the third quarter and Cincinnati tied the game on what should have been the drive that truly shifted things. But no such luck to be found.
Coming out of halftime, you would expect that Zach Taylor’s second-half emphasis would have been to make sure the offense did better than 63 yards in a half, feed Joe Mixon, and put more pressure on Jackson in the second half. The upside was that there were definitely more yards gained. The downside, however, is that even with some yards gained, the boos could be heard just seven minutes into the second half.
Listen, the Bengals found a spark. There were a couple of minutes where things really looked like they were clicking. The problem is that something clicked for Baltimore as well. Nelson Agholor scored what would essentially be the touchdown that helped seal Baltimore’s win and listen, Cincinnati responded and responded well. But after responding, a crucial 3rd down conversion iced the game in Baltimore’s favor.
Honestly, there’s still more than time to turn this around and right the ship. But in order for this to happen, the Bengals have to find the connection that made them a threat over the last couple of years. For roughly 40-45 minutes of this game, there seemed to be a disconnect between Joe Burrow, his receivers, and head coach Zach Taylor. But for those 15-20 minutes of Bengal football, they were unstoppable. Truthfully, it could’ve been because QB1 missed crucial chemistry building time during the preseason due to injury.
Next week, the Bengals are once again home and they’ll host Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams for a Monday Night Football matchup. This will be a game where the Bengals absolutely have to win the battle of the trenches. Something they’ve failed to do the last two weeks. If the running game can’t get on track, there will be no chance for the passing game to get where it needs to be. At 0-2, expect better offense and more intensity on defense. I would expect the Bengals should win this by at least ten points. Being 0-2 doesn’t mean it’s time to hit the panic button, but it is time to play with urgency.