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NFL Week 1: Missed opportunities spoil Bengals’ season opener vs Ravens

There were a multitude of reasons the Bengals lost their season opener to the Ravens. However, if they could’ve just cut down on the mistakes and capitalized on their opportunities, it could’ve been a completely different football game.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Sunday wasn’t fun to watch if you’re a Cincinnati Bengals fan.

The Bengals have arguably the best set of offensive weapons in the NFL, yet somehow, they got shut out on their home field against a divisional opponent that they’ve had a lot of recent success against.

Early in the game, it appeared like the Bengals were going to be able to move the ball with relative ease. Yet, every time the Bengals were gaining momentum, something occurred that stopped them in their tracks.

This is concerning, because we saw a lot of the same issues a season ago. As much as you likely don’t want to relive that nightmare of a game, let’s recap a bit and touch on some specific plays that could have completely changed the direction that this game went.

After a nice first-down run by Jeremy Hill up the middle, the Bengals’ underwhelming offensive line gave up a pressure and a sack to bring the opening drive to a screeching halt. This was pretty much the story of the game for the Bengals offense. The defense played relatively well for the most part, but the offense didn’t help them out whatsoever.

The Bengals were moving the ball well on their second drive, finding themselves in Baltimore territory. Then, the ball was tipped and intercepted by Baltimore Ravens defensive back Brandon Carr. Had the ball not been tipped, it looked like A.J. Green was running open up the middle of the field, and would’ve had a first down and then some. The ball being tipped was partly bad luck.

However, it was the first of many tipped Andy Dalton passes throughout the day, suggesting that he may have an issue with telegraphing where he’s going with the ball. Regardless, if that ball isn’t tipped and intercepted, the Bengals have a first down in field goal territory and likely walk away with at least three points, making it a tie football game and keeping momentum even.

The defense came out on the ensuing drive and stuffed the Ravens, giving the ball right back to the Bengals offense. Again, the Bengals found themselves moving the ball down the field. Dalton looked crisp on this drive. He was getting the ball out quickly and his passes looked sharp and on time.

It looked like the Bengals were once again about to seize momentum of the game. Then on a 3rd and 7 from inside the 10-yard line, Dalton threw to a completely covered Brandon LaFell in the back of the end-zone. The pass was easily intercepted by Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, and more points were left off the board for the Bengals. With nine minutes to go in the first half, the score was still 3-0 in favor of the Ravens.

The Bengals defense once again stepped up to keep the Bengals in the game. They forced a three and out thanks to a sack from Geno Atkins on 3rd and 6. On the ensuing drive, the Ravens gift wrapped a touchdown for the Bengals when there was a blown coverage against Cody Core.

Core was running wide open down the sideline, and would’ve walked into the end-zone if Dalton gave him even a decent throw. Instead, Dalton threw the ball where Core couldn’t haul it in. Another golden opportunity to gain control of the football game wasn’t executed by the Bengals offense. Things really snowballed from there.

Joe Flacco connected with Jeremy Maclin for a 48-yard touchdown pass on the following drive, making it 10-0, Ravens. Then with under two minutes to go in the first half, Dalton had yet another pass deflected at the line and intercepted. Terrance West would punch it in from the two- yard line following the interception. This made the score 17-0 Ravens going into halftime.

However, Nick Vigil had a nice interception off of a tipped ball by Dunlap on the opening drive of the second half, and all of a sudden, you’re thinking things might start going the Bengals’ way. They had a couple of nice completions, and it looked like they might finally get it into the end-zone and make a game of it.

Then, without fail, Dalton was pressured from behind and had the ball stripped, resulting in another red-zone turnover. The Ravens slowly but surely melted away the clock after this, and would eventually win the game, 20-0.

Opportunity after opportunity was squandered by the Bengals in this one. Something the coaches like to preach is “finishing.” Finishing what you’ve started is a habit, and the Bengals have proved time and time again that their finishing habits are poor.

Whether it be finishing a season or finishing a drive, the Bengals for some reason just don’t seem to have it in their DNA. Last year, the Bengals were in almost every game, but they just couldn’t finish. Dalton, the offensive line, coaching staff and even the defense have to look in the mirror after this one and figure out what kind of team they are.

When good football teams are given opportunities, they capitalize on them. Based on what we saw Sunday, the Bengals aren’t showing signs of being a good football team, but there’s still plenty of season left to change this.