In less than five days, the Bengals notched two wins and finished the game with the same score.
Last Sunday, it was a second-half surge from the offense that elevated the Bengals over the Colts 34-23.
Tonight, it was an offensive explosion in the first half and a couple of clutch defensive plays that allow the Bengals to hold onto their lead. And once again, we saw a final score of 34-23.
But no matter the method, the outcome is the same. And that means the Bengals are 2-0 to start the season. So which players came out on top, and which need to come back stronger two Sundays from now?
Let’s examine the winners and losers from tonight’s victory:
A.J. Green: Five receptions. 69 yards (nice). Three touchdowns. The most in a single game since Marvin Jones in 2013. ‘Nuff said.
A.J. Green with TD number two tonight, and it's a beaut. Bengals lead 14-0 with 6:26 remaining in the first. pic.twitter.com/F0EB6Kyhn9— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 14, 2018
Jessie Bates: The sole rookie starter on defense recorded his first interception of his career, and nearly snagged two others. This is the performance that the Bengals visioned for Bates going forward as the starter, and his ball skills will be a great asset for a solid defense in front of him.
Tyler Boyd: Green is the known Ravens-killer, but Boyd’s last two games against the division rival have been extraordinary. Five of six receptions and 86 of 91 receiving yards came in the first half, including a touchdown that extended the Bengals lead to 28-7. Boyd had a tough matchup with Tavon Young in the slot, but the third-year receiver continued to come up big against the Ravens.
His performance was nearly identical to the Bengals Week 17 victory last season, and the Ravens now have two receivers to consistently worry about when playing the Bengals.
Sam Hubbard: While Jordan Willis was the direct beneficiary from Michael Johnson’s knee injury, Hubbard saw early action as well and took advantage. A sack and two tackles for loss ain’t a bad first game at home in the city you grew up in.
Geno Atkins: The Bengals best defensive player is playing at an All-Pro pace through two games this year. Two first half sacks and two tackles for loss against Flacco puts Atkins at three for the season thus far, as the Bengals defensive line looked much better less time on the field. He also had two tackles for loss in run defense.
Shawn Williams: If anyone needed a bounce back game tonight, it was Williams. After getting ejected last Sunday from a personal foul penalty, Williams came up clutch with a late game interception, eight total tackles, and a game-sealing forced fumble on quarterback Joe Flacco. He left the game at the very end with injury, but the newly-honored captain of the defense made an impression in front of the home crowd.
Michael Johnson: A knee injury forced Johnson to leave the game early, allowing Jordan Willis to take his reps at defensive end in base. We don’t know the severity of Johnson’s injury, but it’s likely that he was going to get phased out of the rotation as the season progressed. This injury might progress that.
Dre Kirkpatrick: If there was a game that depicted Kirkpatrick’s career the best, this game makes a great case for that distinction. A dropped interception, a missed tackle, a (questionable) pass interference call on the Ravens second touchdown drive, and an allowed touchdown in the same spot as the interference call in the middle of the fourth-quarter all occurred on Thursday night for the seventh-year starter.