The path to redemption in 2017 for the Cincinnati Bengals took a big hit on Sunday. For all of the flash the team added at their skill positions this offseason, a big, fat goose egg on the scoreboard was borderline appalling.
The good news is that the team has 15 more opportunities to right the ship, but they’ll need to get going this Thursday night against the Texans. Here are the best and worst from the Bengals’ 20-0 loss to the Ravens in Week 1.
The defense—particularly the young guys: Sure, Geno Atkins had a sack and made a trademark seven tackles, but some of the young guns stepped up on Sunday. Guys like Nick Vigil, Clayton Fejedelem and Kevin Minter all had nice moments on an otherwise ugly afternoon. After being constantly put in poor situations via five turnovers, Cincinnati’s defense only gave up 20 points and 268 total yards, while two of their best defenders, Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones, sat with suspensions.
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard: Much has been made of Joe Mixon and his ability to take over the starting running back role, but both of the veteran backs weren’t giving up their snaps without a fight. Bernard had the Bengals’ two biggest plays of the day—a 23-yard run and a 39-yard catch—while Hill had over four yards per carry. Mixon, on the other hand, had just nine yards on eight carries.
Penalties: With nine total penalties on the day, you may have had a fun drinking game on hand if you took a sip when the yellow hankies came out against the Bengals. We should have known it was going to be a rough day for Cincinnati when they committed a false start on their first play of scrimmage, but that wasn’t the only foul. The only thing keeping this out of the “ugly” category is the fact that the refs called two egregious interference penalties against Vigil and William Jackson III that should have been non-calls.
The offensive game plan: What saves this one from the “ugly” category is some adjustments Ken Zampese made in the second quarter to mask the pressure issues up front. However, those quick-hitting passes Zampese changed to became predictable and Dalton, who was totally out of sorts on Sunday, had a number of his passes knocked or tipped at the line.
Where are all the weapons?: This plays into the previous point, but whether or not Dalton is having his best day, having Tyler Eifert and Tyler Boyd finishing with just one catch apiece isn’t ideal. With those two being out of the picture, it’s obvious why the Bengals didn’t score a point and only had 14 first downs.
The offensive line: The biggest concern heading into this season came to fruition on Sunday. There are so many issues and culprits, so I’ll just present some visuals. Also, Trey Hopkins might have suffered a significant knee injury, so the team may be down a starter.
Look at where Jake Fisher was when Andy Dalton released this pass lmao pic.twitter.com/wzv9wM1EkW— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) September 10, 2017
man. how many times do the bengals need to see russell bodine get embarrassed before they upgrade center? pic.twitter.com/DjPIUlHayQ— charles mcdonald (@FourVerts) September 11, 2017
Andy Dalton: There is a sort of chicken-or-the-egg thing going on between the causality of Dalton’s play. Did he play poorly because of immense pressure, or was he already having an off day? Most would say that it was both, as Dalton was running for his life, forcing poor throws in the red zone and missing other wide open receivers (cough, Cody Core, cough). Five total turnovers, including tying a career-high four interceptions, led to a completely unwatchable performance from the veteran signal-caller.
Zero points: After the game, Dave Lapham and Dan Hoard broke down the game, and the former Bengals’ offensive lineman noted that the Bengals were slowly game planning for the Ravens since the onset of training camp. While there were some poor individual performances that led to the loss, a lot of the onus has to fall on Marvin Lewis and his staff as the team—particularly on offense—looked totally unprepared for a huge divisional game to kickoff the season.
These jackwagons of “Bengals fans”: I don’t like to promote people who do foolish or negative things, but one “fan” has gained notoriety for blasting Dalton and the Bengals as they left the field on Sunday. Unfortunately, even though he may be in the minority, the below type of behavior has become a stereotype for cynical Cincinnati fans.
Here's why Andy Dalton runs off...— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) September 10, 2017
One fan: "You suck."
Another throws hat at Dalton.
Another fan yells: "I want Carson back." #Bengals pic.twitter.com/uAHDcNImMu
Red zone inefficiency: This is obviously an indictment of turnovers, but the Bengals got into the red zone three times and came away with zero points. Cincinnati’s offense hit the trifecta, as Dalton threw an ugly pick into triple coverage, he was hit and fumbled on third down, only to top it off with a turnover on downs. If the team was hoping to see how Randy Bullock would fare, they didn’t get an opportunity to do so.