Winning on the road in the NFL is tough. Winning division games on the road is even tougher. Andy Dalton and the Bengals could care less. The last two times the Bengals travelled to Baltimore, they boarded their flight home with a ‘W' in their back pockets. While it wasn't pretty, we learned plenty on Sunday afternoon.
That game should not have even been close.
Ravens players, coaches, fans and media will undoubtedly talk about how they could/should have won that game. Could? Yes. Should? Not a chance. The Bengals thoroughly outplayed the Ravens for most of the game (with the exception of the third quarter), they were the better team and they were the more talented team. If not for some questionable clock management, play calls and officiating calls, that game would have been over a few minutes into the third quarter. That being said, give the Ravens credit for fighting back and nearly stealing a game they had no business winning.
Joe Flacco hates the Bengals more than any team in the division and doesn't think the Ravens should lose to the Bengals.
Numerous times throughout the game we were told how Joe Flacco hates the Bengals more than any other team in the North because he doesn't believe they should lose to them. Joe Flacco is an idiot. Nothing is worse than the loser claiming they were the better team and that is exactly what Flacco is doing. Flacco is now 7-8 against the Bengals, his worst record against any other team. He is zero for his last four when facing the Bengals. One loss could be a fluke. Four in a row is called a trend. Flacco has 19 interceptions against the Bengals...he hasn't thrown more than seven against any other team. Joe Flacco has finished behind the Bengals in the standing two years in a row, about to be three. At what point does the "we shouldn't lose to them" mantra sound like pure stupidity?
"Good Andy" has shown up three games in a row.
Knock on wood, but through three games, we have only seen "Good Andy" and his evil quarterback twin "Bad Andy" has stayed home. Let's hope that continues. Yes, Dalton had two costly turnovers, but the sack was not his fault (why was Eifert blocking Dumervil?) and while the pick was a terrible pass - and a mistake he can't make in that situation - but that was an equally terrible play call. Regardless, through three games (two on the road), Andy Dalton has 866 yards, 9 touchdowns (8 passing, 1 rushing) and just one interception. He is completing more than 66% of his passes (61/92), has a quarterback rating over 120.0 and a QBR over 85.0. If "Good Andy" can come to play more often than "Bad Andy," this team will be really difficult to beat.
A.J. Green came up huge and had an absurd day against the Ravens...again.
Few people are as tough on Green as myself, but for the second time in three matchups, A.J. Green came up huge and helped carry the Bengals to a big win over their division rival Ravens. 10 catches, 227 yards, 2 touchdowns...in one game. Jimmy Smith may be a good cornerback, but he cannot cover Green. The Bengals recent dominance of the Ravens (4-0 in their last four matchups) is in large part due to Green's dominance of the Ravens secondary.
There are a plethora of rules I do not understand...especially when it comes to what constitutes the completing of a catch.
That is twice now in the last four years that a Bengals tight end has had a touchdown taken away on a catch rule I still don't understand. Tyler Eifert caught the ball, got three (or four) feet down, turned, reached the ball over the goal line before the ball was kick out of his hands...yet somehow that is not a catch? How is turning and reaching not a football move? And once the football breaks the plane of the endzone while in the control of a player, the play is over, so how is that not a touchdown? Marvin Lewis said they got it right, but if that is the way the rule is written, then the rule needs to be changed. That was a touchdown. Beyond the catch/no catch, I never heard of an untimed down at the end of the first or third quarter, I thought that was only at the end of the half/game? And since when can a player fumble forward and the ball gets spotted at the point of recovery? The calls ended up not mattering, but I thought I understood the rules of the game very well...apparently not.
The NFL needs to get flags under control because it is making the game painful to watch.
Honestly, can you ever remember games being as unwatchable as they are currently? If there isn't a flag thrown, you are looking for/anticipating a flag to be thrown - or calling for one to be thrown. During the Bengals/Ravens game, 22 penalties were enforced - or more than one every three game minutes. That does not account for flags that were picked up. The flags are getting out of control and the NFL needs to address it.
Tackling is still an issue.
If the Bengals could tackle, Steve Smith would have had about 70-80 less yards and one less touchdowns. That is two weeks in a row that the tackling was embarrassing, and for the second week in a row, Reggie Nelson and Vinny Rey were two of the guiltiest parties. The Bengals are good enough to beat teams like the Raiders, Chargers and Ravens despite terrible tackling. They are about to hit a spot in their schedule where missed tackles will start costing them games.
Paul Guenther must not be aware of Steve Smith Sr.'s number.
89. His damned number is 89. Cover him please! The Ravens have one weapon you have to worry about, one. And that one, is Steve Smith, yet the Bengals seemed incapable of locating, covering or tackling him. Note to Guenther, next time you play a team with one weapon, double cover him.
The Bengals' defense was dominant at times...yet disappeared on third downs.
At times, the Bengals defense was dominant - especially against the run - but they were terrible when it mattered most. They allowed 7 of 16 third downs to be converted, including two third and 21's and one third and 11. They also allowed the Ravens to convert two of their three fourth down attempts, and if not for a bad pass by Flacco to end the game, it would have been three for three. One of those conversions went for 50 yards and a touchdown. As good as the Bengals played to get Ravens into third and long and fourth and long situations, they did an awful job getting off the field. One thing that will kill a defense - and a team - is allowing teams to convert a high percentage of third downs.
The Bengals' secondary was torched, but I am not concerned.
Even at 103, Steve Smith is still really good, so I am not concerned that this will be an ongoing issue. The Bengals secondary will learn from this and be better for it. That being said, someone, please find Steve Smith and cover him.
Russell Bodine was abused.
Last week, Pro Football Focus graded Bodine as the best center in Week 2. I think it is safe to say Bodine will not be repeating that feat in Week 3. Bodine spent the day being pushed into Andy Dalton's lap and one of the biggest reason the Bengals run game was never able to get off the ground. I think Bodine will be just fine, but Sunday was a game he needs to learn from and then quickly forget.
The running game is becoming a concern.
It helps when your center is not getting in the way of handoffs because he is being driven back off the snap, but even so, the Bengals run game is concerning. Jeremy Hill has just 123 yards on the season (3.0 YPC). To put that in perspective, Hill ran for more than 123 yards in a single game four times in the last nine games in 2014 and averaged 5.1 YPC on the season. While it is only three games, Hill's inability to get going is a concern.
A.J. Green makes way too many mental mistakes for a player of his talent.
I get labeled as an A.J. Green hater, and I am sure I will get called that again, but the guy is too talented to be making the mental mistakes he makes on such a consistent basis. Green has now had a terrible play in each of the three games thus far, all of which could have cost the Bengals the game. An early dropped touchdown in Oakland - when Oakland was still in the game. A lack of effort on a pass against San Diego that nearly resulted in an interception - an interception which would have negated what turned out to be the game winning touchdown. Now this week, a simple pass along the line of scrimmage hits him in the facemask and pops straight up in the air and is nearly picked off. Don't think it is a problem? Remember the preseason game against Tampa this year? Green had a drop and Jon Gruden queued a highlight reel of Green's drops and lack of effort plays - if it wasn't an issue, the Monday night crew wouldn't have had a highlight reel ready to go. Look, I understand he is going to have drops, I am not asking for perfection, but it seems like every week we are talking about a big drop or a lack of effort (remember the fumble on the game winning drive Week 17 in Pittsburgh?). Green is too talented for these mistakes. He did more than make up for it, but the mental errors need to stop, because one of these games, it will cost the Bengals.
At 0-3 and 3.5 games back in the division, the Ravens division hopes are done and their playoff hopes are nearly non-existent.
You can hear it now, Ravens players, coaches, fans and media will say how "it is a long season," "it is still early" and we just need to take it "one game at a time," but make no mistake, at 0-3 and essentially four games back of the Bengals, the Ravens chance at the division are all but done and with games remaining on their schedule of Pittsburgh (2), at Cincinnati, at Arizona, at Miami and home against San Diego, St. Louis, Seattle and Kansas City, their chances at the playoffs are essentially done as well. Since 1990, only 2.4% of teams that have dropped to 0-3 have made the playoffs.
Since the start of the 2013 season, Joe Flacco is 18-17 (.514) in the regular season.
I hate the "Elite" talk, but let's get one thing out of the way here, whatever the definition of "Elite" is when it comes to quarterbacks, Joe Flacco does not come close to fitting it. Since signing his big contract after his improbable - and impressive - run to the Super Bowl in 2012, Flacco is basically a .500 quarterback with 50 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and looking to miss the playoffs for the second time in three years. His numbers are average, and while the record isn't all his fault, the whole package is not good. For comparison sake, during that same stretch, Dalton is 24-10-1 (.706) with 60 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and well on his way to three playoff appearances.
At 3-0 and 1-0 in the division, the AFC North goes through the Queen City.
As a result of lazy reporting and tired stories, the national media only talked about the Ravens and Steelers all offseason, but three games in, the Ravens are already 3.5 games behind the Bengals and the Steelers are going to be without Ben Roethlisberger for an extended period of time. Advantage, Bengals.