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Bengals at Ravens: The Good, the bad and the ugly

It was another disappointing finish for Cincinnati in Week 12 as they lost to the division rival Ravens. We dissect the best and worst from Sunday’s outcome.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It was a must-win game for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12 against the Baltimore Ravens, and, as has been the theme for 2016, they came up just short once again. At 3-7-1, the type of football the Bengals are currently playing is nearly unrecognizable from what we’ve seen throughout much of the Andy Dalton era.

It’s hard to pull positives from the team’s third consecutive loss and one in which they scored so few points. Here are the best and worst from the Bengals’ 19-14 loss to the Ravens.

The Good:

The Tylers: Cincinnati’s offense struggled to move the football, but both Tyler Eifert and Tyler Boyd stepped up on Sunday with A.J. Green out of the lineup. Both made a bunch of tough catches that moved the sticks and they were the top two receivers on the afternoon. Eifert had five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, while Boyd have five of his own for 62 yards.

Jeremy Hill, the pass-catcher: When Giovani Bernard’s season ended, many wondered if the backs on the roster could still help Dalton out in the passing game. While Hill didn’t have a great day running the ball (12 rushes for just 21 yards), he bailed out Cincinnati’s signal-caller with six catches for 61 yards. It’s actually a bit of an overlooked aspect to the running back’s game, as he has shown capable hands since 2014.

The Defense: It might not have been a truly outstanding day from Cincinnati’s unit, but it was definitely a solid one at every level. Bengal-killer Steve Smith, Sr., had only four catches for 20 yards, while the rest of the team had two sacks on Joe Flacco and forced an interception. The allowance of just 19 points to Baltimore was impressive, especially when you consider that three of Justin Tucker’s field goals were from beyond 50 yards.

Penalties accrued: One ray of sunshine that pointed to solid coaching on an afternoon littered by poor decisions on the Bengals’ sideline was their clean play. Cincinnati only had two penalties for 15 yards, which definitely helped their cause.

Vontaze Burfict: While he was part of the aforementioned positive point, Burfict has really been standing out the past few weeks. He’s been flying around making plays and accruing a ton of tackles. He had 13 total last week (10 solo), giving him 37 total over the past three games. Oh, and he wisely used his reputation to goad Smith into an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

It was almost as good of a flop that Jerome Simpson provided back in 2011.

The Bad:

Andy Dalton and the fumbles: The issues on offense don’t lie solely on Dalton. In fact, he’s carrying on quite well with the myriad of issues occurring on the offensive line. However, Dalton was credited with four fumbles on the afternoon (two lost) and they occurred in a variety of fashions. Pressure and sacks were one of the ways, as was an errant snap from Russell Bodine.

Even so, the offense looks stale, Dalton isn’t pushing the ball downfield at all and his confidence doesn’t even come close to what we saw in 2015. Dalton did distribute the ball to eight different receivers though, so it’s not all lost.

The disparity in team speed: The Ravens are much healthier this year and they also made a couple of free agent moves to help their team. Both aspects have directly improved their receiver corps, in the form of Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace. Neither truly had game-breaking plays, even though Perriman had a touchdown reception, but when they had the ball, their speed was notable against the Bengals’ defense.

What’s more is that Cincinnati could have taken a flyer on Wallace as a deep threat opposite of Green and opted to go with Brandon LaFell in free agency and Boyd in the draft. With Green out the past two weeks, a speed threat like Wallace would be a nice option for Dalton in a unit currently lacking sizzle.

Difference-makers on Baltimore’s special teams: A game where Mike Nugent missed his third consecutive extra point, while Tucker was perfect in all aspects in the afternoon, prompted a collective sigh of exasperation from Bengals fans. As if that wasn’t enough, Sam Koch outdueled Kevin Huber in the punting game by pinning Cincinnati inside of its own 20-yard on four of his five kicks. The ageless wonder, Devin Hester, also had some nice returns, including a 28-yard punt return.

The Ugly:

Play of the offensive tackles against Baltimore’s edge rushers: Once again, the Bengals had major issues protecting Dalton on the afternoon. The line gave up three sacks along with those four forced fumbles, with many Ravens players getting in on the action. Terrell Suggs had two sacks after traditionally struggling against Cincinnati in recent years, while Elvis Dumervil had another good game off the edge and the eventual game-clinching strip-sack.

Questionable coaching decisions: Aside from the staff keeping Nugent around before and after his Week 12 struggles, in-game gaffes by Marvin Lewis and his staff were prevalent. There was a mind-boggling situation where the Bengals were given a generous spot for a first down on a James Wright reception, but instead of playing it casual and/or rushing to the line, Cincinnati called a timeout which gave the Ravens time to look at the play a bit longer. The Ravens challenged and the call ended up being reversed. Though, this time out was actually called by Dalton and not Lewis.

There is also the issue at right tackle. Cedric Ogbuehi has struggled mightily this season, so Lewis and offensive coordinator Ken Zampese have come up with a plan to rotate veteran Eric Winston in certain series. Ogbuehi struggled throughout the afternoon against Baltimore and Winston gave up the clinching play to Dumervil. Yet, even with the struggles, Jake Fisher has still been on the sidelines.

Inability to run the football: We knew it was going to be tough sledding on the ground against the top-ranked rush defense, especially with Bernard on Injured Reserve. But, just 64 yards, with 21 from Hill? It’s just another issue on offense with so many others plaguing the team in 2016.