The Cincinnati Bengals are 2-0.
There were times in which the game looked either totally controlled and others where things seemed to be slipping through their grasp, but they came through for their second consecutive win (and composite score of 34-23). Here are the best and worst from the team’s win on Thursday Night Football.
“The Red-Green” connection: What more is there to say here? Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes in the win, with three of them going to Green.
In two games, Dalton has six touchdown passes against one interception, while Green has four touchdowns in the same span. Compare that to a zero touchdown-four interception start to 2017, along with a subpar one from Green in the first two games of last season.
The defensive line: Yes, Joe Flacco ended up making some big passing plays later in the game, but the big guys up front harassed him all night long. Geno Atkins had two sacks and numerous pressures, while rookie Sam Hubbard joined in with a sack of Flacco of his own.
Jordan Willis had a critical fumble recovery, while Dunlap was disruptive, as well. The big boys up front were critical in limiting the Ravens’ rushing attack to just 66 yards on 22 rushing plays—a 3.0 yards-per-carry average.
The safeties: Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates III were huge difference-makers on Thursday night. Both had an interception of Flacco, while Williams had a strip-sack in the fourth quarter to help ice the victory. Bates had a chance at two other interceptions, but regardless, they also combined for 11 tackles along with their three forced turnovers.
The offensive line: It wasn’t a perfect night up front, as three of the guys had penalties, but they stood strong, for the most part. They let up zero sacks to a Ravens defense that netted six against Buffalo just a week earlier, while also paving the way for Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard to combine for 27 carries and 11 yards (4.1 yards per carry).
Heck, even Trey Hopkins filled in at center admirably, which isn’t his top position on the roster:
Replacing the injured Billy Price, #Bengals' Trey Hopkins allowed just one pressure across 36 pass-block snaps.— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) September 14, 2018
Bill Lazor and his myriad of weapons: Whether it was having the offense get off to a 28-14 first half lead, concocting a scheme to get the ball into eight different receivers, or establishing the run against a stout defense, it was a good night for the team’s offensive coordinator.
The trio of tight ends comprised of Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah combined for seven catches and 79 yards, while Green and Tyler Boyd had four touchdowns on the evening.
Special teams: Rookie Darius Phillips was the team’s primary punt return man and had 24 yards on two opportunities. Randy Bullock was again perfect on the evening, accounting for 10 points with two clutch second half field goals, while Kevin Huber pinned the Ravens inside their own 20-yard line four times on six kicks.
Letting a big lead slip away: As it was last week with the Colts, Thursday night was a tale of two halves. Cincinnati had four touchdowns in the first half, but
John Ross: It was great to see Ross get in the end zone last week, but it’s still clear that both he and Dalton aren’t always on the same page. He did have a reception on Thursday night, but also had a run for minus-three yards and a dropped pass. It seemed like a good night for him to have big plays, given the Bengals’ success in the pass game, but it didn’t happen.
Two total receptions on six targets through the first two games isn’t ideal, but he’s essentially in his rookie season, given the time he missed last year. Still, most are waiting for those explosive plays that his college tape and NFL Combine-record 40-time displayed.
A disparity in the nerdy stats: Though Cincinnati dominated the first half and came out victorious, there were some stats that still create uneasiness. Cincinnati was beaten by the Ravens in the following statistical categories: total plays (81 to 70), first downs (28 to 24), third down efficiency (43% to 38%) and passing yards (359 to 265).
Now, there are a couple of reasons and other takeaways here. Short fields created by turnovers and special teams contributed to the disparities, but some of these have been a week-to-week trend. On the positive, Cincinnati had more turnovers (three to zero) and sacks (four to zero).
The injuries: Even though the Bengals came up with the win, the game was a veritable bloodbath. Joe Mixon has a knee issue that is going to force him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks, Billy Price is nursing a strained foot, while Michael Johnson sprained a knee ligament. Yikes.
The officiating: The crew on Thursday night was incredibly inconsistent in their calls. Both teams suffered some ticky-tack calls, causing frustration from the squads, their fans and casual NFL viewers.