While the offense looked okay in the first half today, it just didn't do enough to finish drives. There were too many stuffed runs, too many penalties, and a solid two passes that Palmer just didn't throw in the right place. None the less, the Bengals were much better than the Ravens in the first half. They held the ball for just over 18 minutes and gained 135 yards. The big play was lacking, and Palmer may have overthrown a few should-have-been completions, but it could have been worse, that's for sure.
The main positive I'm taking away from this half is that the Bengals' secondary and trench play was vastly superior to the Ravens'. The Ravens did step up and get stiff against the run in the second quarter, but Palmer had pretty nice time all half, and most of the stuffed runs didn't work because, in large part, they were stretch plays that allowed the linebackers to get too involved. Flacco was under pressure on just about every snap, and the Baltimore offense was only good for 78 yards in the first half; Flacco was 5/18 for just about 1 yard per attempt. That's pretty solid secondary + QB Pressure play.
Areas for improvement? I can think of a few. First, let's cut it out with the pre-snap penalties. They're getting old. Dennis Roland and Evan Mathis aren't going to cut it. Neither is settling for field goals, neither are the dropped passes on catchable, but not perfectly-thrown balls. But the offense's struggles in the first half were of the penal variety. Six penalties for 35 yards is bad. One holding penalty was declined. So really, for all of the success, penalties did not give the offense a chance to get into rhythm. I've seen and expect to continue criticism of Palmer and Bratkowski. And I won't let up on Bratkowski. But Palmer hasn't made any game-ruining mistakes and the Bengals are leading on the strength of their defense, who, thanks to the offense not being completely terrible has had time to rest.
Let's hope the offense picks up in the second half. The Ravens are a good, but not great team right now. They've still got a nasty linebacking corps, but I've got a feeling that there are some secondary holes to be exploited. Hopefully "adjustments" happen, but knowing the Bengals, well...