Thursday night was rough for Baltimore Ravens fans. After the hype of the offense and defense all throughout training camp, preseason and the Week 1 bludgeoning against the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals halted this overwhelming momentum with a 34-23 victory. It hurt. Now, to cover it after an extended period of thinking it over.
The team didn’t lay over and accept defeat. A.J. Green, as per usual, rocked the Ravens secondary. This time with a hat-trick of touchdowns. After three scores from Green and another touchdown from the Cincinnati offense, most fans accepted defeat. The Ravens, however, did not. They battled back and pushed this to a one-score game in the fourth quarter. This team didn’t quit.
John Brown is the real deal. Most fans, certainly Arizona Cardinals fans, knew if Brown was healthy, he could wheel-and-deal with the best of them. He’s a dynamic receiver capable or burning a corner for the deep score or making the tough catches inside and outside of the hash-marks or the endzone. He secured a grab in the endzone against Dre Kirkpatrick and magically came up with the football in triple-coverage. He’s going to move the chains and score points this year.
Tight ends are a threat. Rookie TE Mark Andrews caught his first touchdown pass on Thursday. The tight ends combined for eight catches on 11 targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. They’re all capable of getting involved in the passing game.
This may be the Ravens at their worst. I can’t promise it, but this looked like a game where everything went wrong. Joe Flacco and Paul Brown Stadium don’t mix; his worst games occur at Cincinnati. The fumbling issues struck. The offensive line couldn’t block. The pass rush wasn’t there. Cornerbacks couldn’t hold off Andy Dalton and company. If a close comeback game against a divisional rival on the road during a short week culminates this result, I’m confident they can play with anybody. This was not an easy game and shouldn’t have been looked at as such.
A big loss can vault a team into better performance down the road. There’s nothing quite like learning a painful lesson. You’re hurt, but you learn from it. This is a game every player on the roster can learn from. This is a talented group of players and the camaraderie in the Ravens’ locker room will build off this, rather than crumble.
The Ravens are 1-1, not 1-5. As I said, this loss hurt. The Bengals punished the Ravens early and forced them off their gameplan. Though it was a loss, the Ravens are still 1-1. They’re second in the division with both the Steelers and Browns beneath them at 0-1-1. It’s okay.
This was a game without the two best defenders on the roster. Both Jimmy Smith and C.J. Mosley missed this game to suspension and injury, respectively. If both are on the field, maybe this is a different outcome.
Nine(!) players completed catches. Flacco continues to spread the football around, rather than targeting only a single player. He isn’t relying on a 37-year old Benjamin Watson or an oft-injured Dennis Pitta. He isn’t staring down Steve Smith Sr. or Anquan Boldin. This is a full arsenal of weapons and Flacco’s utilizing them all.
Tucker is the best kicker in football. Far too many teams lost or left points on the board due to missed field goals this past week. The Browns lost due to missed field goals and the Minnesota Vikings tied with the Green Bay Packers from a missed gamewinner. Chris Boswell missed both a field goal and a PAT in a five-point game. Place-kickers are invaluable and Tucker continues to prove he’s the greatest to grace the field.
Where was the pass rush receiving praise only a week ago? In my last Good, Bad & Ugly, I specifically praised the surplus of pressure-creating defenders. Terrell Suggs, Tim Williams and Za’Darius Smith all disrupted the Bills’ offense and won in the trenches. The Bengals offensive line, which struggled against the Colts’ front, won the battle for all 60 minutes. This can’t happen.
The secondary lost, a lot. After Tavon Young and Marlon Humphrey rocked the Bills, they fared far differently against A.J. Green and the rest of the Bengals wide receivers. Green shed Young’s tackle and sprinted past Eric Weddle for the score. He beat Humphrey in the endzone for a touchdown. This was a game in which Jimmy’s absence was felt.
The offensive line is worrisome. Against the Bills, Flacco got the ball out quick enough to hide the weaknesses of his protection unit. But the Bengals, specifically Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, still found and exploited them. When all five starters look shaky, it’s no longer uncertain, it’s worrisome.
Two games in and two fumbles from Janarion Grant. The punt returners job is to secure the football first, then create returns. Grant’s job is in jeopardy and it should be. I was under the impression the fumble from last week was due to the terrible weather conditions and nerves but Grant’s second fumble occurred in prime football conditions.
Alex Collins’ carries top at 16 after two weeks. I wasn’t worried about Collins’ lack of carries against the Bills due to Flacco’s impressive passing display. No need to keep it on the ground, even in the wind and rain, if your quarterback racks up three touchdowns without a sweat. Now, with the play from the offensive line, I’m worried Collins won’t produce due to the blocking and playcalling surrounding the lack of push at the line of scrimmage.
What was that two-minute drill?
I understand, in this situation, the Bengals are forcing you to throw it in the middle. They play the outside, they keep the sidelines protected and you’re left with the center of the field to work with. That being said, the aforementioned ‘arsenal of weapons’ can’t settle for the center of the field on six of the final attempts on the drive. Marty must create better playcalling in these scenarios.