The Cincinnati Bengals hosted their divisional foe Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon and rust was obvious from both teams. Regardless, Cincinnati couldn’t get out of their own way, committing five turnovers to an aggressive Ravens defense. Cincinnati never recovered from early mistakes as the team lost in their first season-opening game at home since 2009, with Baltimore coming out on top, 20-0.
It wasn’t the prettiest of starts to the season for the Bengals, as some of Cincinnati’s most trusted veterans accumulated three penalties during each team’s first possessions. Cincinnati’s offense gained a first down on a Jeremy Hill run, but the drive stalled out and the Bengals were forced to punt.
Three penalties against Bengals in first 10 plays.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) September 10, 2017
After letting Danny Woodhead convert two third downs through the air on the Ravens’ first possession, the Bengals’ defense settled in and allowed only a Justin Tucker field goal on the opening drive. Woodhead left after the possession with what was deemed a hamstring injury and the Ravens were forced to adjust for the rest of the game.
When the Bengals took possession again, they were on the move, but Andy Dalton threw an interception intended for A.J. Green that was tipped to Brandon Carr. Dalton finished the first quarter just 2-of-4 with 14 yards and an interception.
Things didn’t get much better for the Bengals to begin the second quarter as Giovani Bernard was flagged for a face mask penalty inside the team’s own 10-yard line. He atoned the mistake with a nice 23-yard run that set up the Bengals in scoring position. Unfortunately, Dalton threw a second interception to C.J. Mosley in the end zone on a third down, eliminating the opportunity for points.
To offensive coordinator Ken Zampese’s credit, he adjusted the offense’s game plan to more quick-hitting passes to move the sticks. Brandon LaFell and A.J. Green made nice plays as the team attempted to mask some of the offensive line issues. It worked well, despite Dalton’s poor decision in the red zone.
Dalton’s first half struggles began to snowball as the Bengals were on the move to attempt to take the lead. On third down, Dalton badly missed a wide open Cody Core who was streaking down the end zone for a potential touchdown.
Cincinnati’s defense deserved some credit for their first half performance, sacking Joe Flacco once (hello again, Geno Atkins) and allowing just 37 yards on 12 carries (3.0 yards per carry). Even though the team was down 17-0 before the half, the offense was to blame as Dalton threw three interceptions, while the team’s offensive line allowed two sacks. Making things worse was starting right guard Trey Hopkins leaving the game with a left knee injury, which seems serious.
All in all, it was a quick-moving, yet ugly first half of football, especially for the Bengals. For Cincinnati, it may very well have been the worst possible start to the season, as they looked to rebound from a six-win season.
The Ravens got the ball after the halftime gun with a lead, which wasn’t ideal for Cincinnati. However, Carlos Dunlap blocked a Flacco passing lane and Nick Vigil snagged a much-needed interception.
But, Dalton and the inept offense struck again.
After Vigil gave them great starting field position at the Ravens’ 26-yard line, Cincinnati marched down to the 6-yard line. On third down, Dalton dropped back, but was hit by Suggs, who beat Cedric Ogbuehi off of the edge. It was ruled a fumble and Cincinnati once again took themselves out of an opportunity for points.
The game’s officiating unit didn’t offer the Bengals any favors in the second half. After a long and tough drive with Baltimore attempting to chew clock with the run game, Cincinnati’s defense was kept on the field by two phantom penalties. William Jackson III and Vigil were called for more-than-questionable penalties against Ravens receivers, which led to another Tucker field goal and a 20-0 lead for Baltimore with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Cincinnati was on the move after taking possession, but Dalton missed another couple of key passes to Core and Tyler Boyd. Lewis inexplicably decided to have the Bengals punt on fourth down with less than 10 minutes to play, pinning the Ravens inside their own 8-yard line.
To say that Dalton and the offense were ineffective on Sunday afternoon would be kind. Zampese’s unit was just 4-of-13 (31 percent) on third down and the unit had trouble pushing the ball down field all afternoon. Even before Dalton’s fourth interception of the day (of five total turnovers), the team’s drives were ugly.
The Bengals host the Texans on Thursday Night Football in a battle of 0-1 teams. Cincinnati will need to have a quick rebound on a short week, as they look to make early progress in the AFC playoff picture.