I think this is some cruel punishment handed down from our leader Josh Kirkendall. My first reaction - Did anybody play good? - ended up being the lasting impression of the game. Sure, we can find a handful of players that did their jobs at a high level, but the beauty of football is everyone must take care of their assignments. The Bengals couldn't do that consistently in Baltimore, but if you're looking for a few bright spots in a blowout, here are five players that impressed me.
5) A.J. Green - 5 receptions for 70 yards
The best part about Green's performance was how deeply he is/was involved in Jon Gruden's playbook. Everybody figured he'd be force-fed the ball, but when Green lines up everywhere, goes in motion, and is used to create mismatches, he becomes a complete player for this offense. You could see the Ravens defense give him the highest level of respect. On third downs, you could see Ed Reed starting sliding over to Green's side pre-snap. With Baltimore respecting Green's ability to get deep by playing off-coverage, it opened up passing lanes underneath for the auxiliary players of offense.
4) Geno Atkins – 2 tackles; 2 sacks
It’s hard to pick anybody on defense with how easily the Ravens dissected it, but Atkins was his normal self. On his first sack, he was playing RDE in a three-man front. At the snap, Atkins looped back inside and ran over long-time Center Matt Birk on his way to bringing Joe Flacco down. His last sack was vintage Geno; leverage, strength, quickness and a killer bull rush. Atkins’ value only increased as his backup, Devon Still had a horrific game. The Ravens trap blocked the rookie early which Ray Rice followed for a big gain, then the LG & OC for Baltimore doubled Still and completely drove him into the dirt; another big gain. Keeping Atkins on the field is crucial, especially when you’re facing a no-huddle offense. The Ravens would notice Atkins’ absence and hurry back to the line; leaving the Bengals vulnerable in the middle.
3) Benjarvus Green-Ellis – 18 carries for 91 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 4 yards
Green-Ellis was very reliable when Cincinnati was still in the game. He consistently converted short yardage and ran with an abusive style. He seemed to get exactly what was blocked for him plus an extra yard or two. The Ravens defense seemed to be buckling as the game wore on. It’s a shame the Bengals couldn’t keep on pounding the rock; the score wouldn’t allow for it. I was concerned with "The Law Firm’s" outside running. He seemed devoid of taking the ball into space. There were a few runs where the more attractive lane would’ve been to the outside; instead BJGE cut it back inside and looked to punish a Ravens’ defender; hard to really complain with that.
2) Andrew Hawkins – 8 receptions for 86 yards
Go claim Hawkins in your fantasy football league; he isn’t going away. Teams are going to keep playing off coverage because they’re scared of Green beating them deep. The Bengals will put Green and Hawkins on the same side and make defenses choose who they want to beat them. Every opponent will choose Hawkins. Those screens passes and "Baby Hawk’s" involved in written in stone in this offense’s playbook. Hawkins has elite agility and acceleration to go with surprising strength and toughness from a player his size.
1) Offensive Line (Especially the three interior lineman)
Whitworth and Boling were the standouts of the group but Faine, Zeitler and Smith all shared the spotlight at times. For the interior players who were playing their first game in stripes at their respective positions, you couldn’t ask for anything more. I saw Faine calling adjustments and blitzes and Zeitler playing faster and with that Wisconsin leverage scouts loved pre-draft. When it comes to Boling, he’s our answer at LG. His improvement from his rookie year cannot be underestimated; he and Faine combo-blocked Haloti Ngata into submission on a few occasions to provide running lanes for Green-Ellis. There was a major brain fart late in the game as Andre Smith took on Ngata from Zeitler only to allow him to sack Dalton almost untouched. We’ll see that as everyone gets comfortable, but this group played way above everyone’s expectations on Monday night.