What to Like
A Win - NFL wins are hard to come by, especially wins on the road against a quality division opponent. Baltimore is a tough place to play and the Bengals win on Sunday is essentially a win and a half as it gives the Bengals the early tiebreaker over the Ravens.
Andy Dalton - Dalton was the talking point all offseason, even more so when he signed his big contract. The talk was "can Dalton win big games?" Well folks, that was a big game and the game was won on a perfectly placed deep ball to A.J. Green - did that arm strength look ok? Sure Dalton missed some passes - every quarterback will - but 25/38 (65.8 percent), 301 yards, 7.9 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 98.7 rating and 52.3 QBR. What more could you ask for?
Offensive Line - The Ravens have one of the best defensive front sevens in the NFL and the Bengals were starting a rookie center, yet the Ravens got exactly 0 sacks and 0 QB hits. When Dalton stays clean, he generally delivers, and he did on Sunday, to the tune of his first victory in Baltimore.
First Half Defense - The first half defense was dominating, forcing a fumble, an interception, allowing 0 points and forcing Flacco to screw up the end of the half clock and run out of time. The defense without Burfict in the second half was clearly less dominant.
Wallace Gilberry - Michael Johnson, who? In the first game of the year, Gilberry had 1.5 sacks, nearly half way to Johnson's 2013 total (3.5).
QB Pressure - The Bengals only had three sacks, and the pass rush was not consistent, but they ended the day with seven QB hits and Flacco never looked comfortable in the pocket.
Ability to Overcome Adversity - I hate when teams settle for FGs and all game long I had a feeling that the Bengals' inability to get a single touchdown in the first half and settling for six FG attempts would come back to bite them... and it did. But, how many Bengals teams can you remember that could have blown that lead (especially in the fashion they did - 80 yard TD on a 3rd and 14 broken play) and come right back out and calmly win the game? Dalton wanted that on his shoulders and he came through big time.
What to Dislike
Inability to Finish Drives - For the most part I liked what I saw with Hue's offense. I did not like what I saw in the redzone and the Bengals cannot continue to settle for FGs and expect to win. The worst call had to be the 3rd and goal designed run to Dalton - throw that play out of the playbook.
Run Game - All the offseason talk about Hue Jackson and his power running and how he would revitalize the Bengals running attack.. and Bengals running backs mustered just 67 yards on 18 carries (3.7 YPC). The lone bright spot in the running game was Hill and his four carries for 19 yards (4.8 YPC). But, take away Gio's 16 yard run, and the Bengals running backs had 51 yards on 17 carries (3.0 YPC).
Adam Jones - The only reason Jones is on the Bad list as opposed to the Ugly list is because he did have a 45 yard punt return that set up a Bengals FG. Jones in coverage though - WTF was he doing on that 80 yard pass to Steve Smith? Was he worried about Flacco scrambling for 14 yards?
Special Teams - They had a rough preseason and it continued into the regular season. Though the kick and punt coverage was good for the most part, the Nugent blocked kick was bad.
Injuries - It sounds like the only significant injury on Sunday was the Eifert injury (which looked gruesome), but that is a huge loss (especially with Jones already out). The Burfict concussion is worrisome... as is Geno Atkins riding a cart back to the locker room.
Jermaine Gresham Penalties- In 2013, Gresham was second on the team and t-3rd in the NFL for the most penalties (10). He averaged 0.63 penalties per game and five penalty yards...and less than three minutes into the 2014 season, Gresham got his first penalty, a false start, and like always, he looked around as if having no idea of what he just did.