Riding a five-game win streak into Week 7, the Ravens had a chance to start the season with a 6-1 record before their bye week. Unfortunately, that did not happen. They were outplayed on both sides of the ball by the Bengals and suffered their worst result of the year, falling 41-17 at home.
Baltimore had some moments in this game and briefly led in the third quarter, but ultimately could not sustain momentum. Some takeaways from today’s less-than-ideal game are below.
After holding the high-powered Chargers to just six points in Week 6, the Ravens’ defense could not replicate a similar performance on Sunday. They struggled to contain the Bengals’ passing attack as poor tackling and blown coverage assignments proved costly.
The Ravens forced the Bengals to punt on three of their first four drives and only allowed a field goal up until midway through the second quarter. They were getting pressure on Joe Burrow consistently and forcing incompletions on third down. Then, C.J. Uzomah got free for a 56-yard touchdown to put the Bengals up 10-3.
From that point on, Cincinnati did not punt the rest of the day and poured on four more touchdowns. Uzomah’s two touchdowns went for 55 and 32 yards on busted coverages in the Ravens’ secondary. Ja’Marr Chase scored an 82-yard touchdown off a catch-and-run after multiple Ravens’ defenders failed to wrap him up.
The Bengals put up over 500 yards of offense and over 400 of them came through the air. This marks the third time that Baltimore’s defense has ceded these marks to opposing teams this season: the Raiders in Week 1 and the Colts in Week 5. The 41 points allowed were a new low, however.
Offensive line beat up
This was a forgettable performance for the Ravens’ offensive line, to put it kindly. Cincinnati’s improved defensive front looked to be a tough test on-paper heading into this matchup and that proved true.
The Bengals sacked Lamar Jackson five times on the day and racked up six quarterback hits. The likes of Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi created consistent pressure and were in the Ravens’ backfield frequently. The edges collapsed quickly and Jackson had little room to operate when stepping up in the pocket.
Jackson led the way on the ground with 88 rushing yards on 12 carries. He ripped off a few chunk gains and made defenders miss in space. However, Baltimore’s running back trio combined for just 23 rushing yards.
The Ravens’ offensive line had begun to piece together some continuity and consistency in recent weeks, but today was a step back. To make matters worse, starting right tackle Patrick Mekari suffered a knee injury and did not return.
Bye week conundrum
The disappointing showing today from the Ravens will leave a bad taste heading into next week’s bye. Yes, the Ravens did not play well and missed an opportunity to further strengthen their position in the AFC. However, it’s important to keep perspective.
From an optimistic point of view, a 5-2 record is still plenty good. If you had said the Ravens’ would win five of their first seven games given their injury circumstances this season, most people would be rightfully satisfied — if not ecstatic.
The bye week comes at an opportune time. The Ravens clearly have some things they need to figure out ahead of the second half of the season. They need to sure up their defensive and offensive line issues. They need to find more success offensively early in games. They need to figure out how to get more out of the running back position.
Most importantly, they need to get healthier. Fortunately, the potential returns of players like Sammy Watkins, Nick Boyle and Derek Wolfe should provide a lift after the week off.
Also, since 2002, the Ravens have a 12-3 record in post-bye week games, which is the best mark of any team in the NFL.
The Bengals have arrived
In the Lamar Jackson era, the Ravens had won five straight games against the Bengals. In their past three matchups, the Ravens had outscored Cincinnati 114-19. After today, it’s clear that circumstances in this division tilt have changed drastically.
The Bengals, who were 4-2 entering today, made a big statement. The Ravens’ did not play high-level football by any stretch, but the Bengals — to their credit — executed well and capitalized when they needed to. Scoring 41 points and winning by 24 points is not something the Bengals, or any team frankly, do often in M&T Bank Stadium.
After today’s result, the Bengals are now No. 1 in the AFC North. It was fair to expect the Browns and Steelers to be Baltimore’s biggest competition in the division this season but that’s proven to be a miscalculation.
The Ravens had a chance to seize control in the division with a two-game advantage had they won today. Instead, they’ll have to look ahead to splitting the season series with Cincinnati in Week 16 and bouncing back from an 0-1 start in the division during the second half of the year.