If you’re into crunching numbers, here’s a doozy: The Bengals are on pace to go 16-0 and win all of their games 34-23. Statistics and probability tells us that this will happen.
Just kidding. The rest of the season will probably not shake out like that (but don’t rule it out!).
But this game is very interesting from a numbers standpoint.
First of all, the 34-23 score is the same score the Bengals had in their Week 1 win against the Colts. Not only was the score the same, but both games ended in almost exactly the same way.
Needing a touchdown, the trailing team has momentum and is trying to score in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter. Then either Shawn Williams’ replacement or Shawn Williams himself forces a fumble, and the Bengals score one more time to put the game away.
Also, Tyler Boyd almost replicated his exact stat line from the last time the Bengals played the Ravens.
Can all of this be a coincidence? Or is there something else going on?
Maybe the Bengals are just really good and the universe is not prepared for that.
Anyways, enough of that. Here’s what we learned:
Tyler Boyd is emerging as the No. 2 receiver
While A.J. Green had three touchdowns on his first three catches, continuing his legacy of humiliating the Ravens’ defense, Tyler Boyd actually had more receptions and more receiving yards than Green. Boyd only had one touchdown, which would normally be noteworthy if he was not teammates with Green.
But Boyd’s statline in this game (six receptions, 91 yards, one touchdown) is almost identical to his statline from the Bengals’ Week 17 upset of the Ravens in 2017 (five receptions, 91 yards, one touchdown). It looks like Green isn’t the only Ravens killer on the Bengals roster.
Green is on pace to gain over 1,200 yards and 32 touchdowns (he will probably fall just short of that one) this season. But Green is one of the best receivers in the NFL and a Hall of Fame lock, so that’s no surprise.
But Boyd had a very underwhelming season in 2017. He’s back to his full potential, building off of a couple great games at the end of last season. If he continues this trend, he will be a great slot receiver, especially on third down, where about half of his targets came.
The offensive line is finding a way
In their Week 1 rout of the Bills, the Ravens had six sacks, nine quarterback hits, and ten tackles for a loss. Against the Bengals, the Ravens were held to no sacks, four quarterback hits, and six tackles for a loss.
Yes, the Bills are a very bad team and are one of the few teams with a worse offensive line than the Bengals. But the Bengals gave up five sacks in the season opener against the Ravens in 2017, so they were on the same level a year ago.
It’s no coincidence that the cleanest pocket Dalton has had in ages was the same game as his four-touchdown first half. The running game had room to breathe, Dalton had time to make good throws, they offense wasn’t constantly finding themselves behind the sticks, and the defense didn’t have to play more than their fair share.
The amazing thing is that there were not really any amazing performances on the offensive line. Billy Price looked good before he was sidelined with an injury, and Cordy Glenn had a pretty good game. But Clint Boling struggled occasionally. Trey Hopkins, who came in for Price at center, gave up some pressure. Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart both made some rookie mistakes, even though Hart is a third-year starter.
But it really doesn’t matter how well the individual units performed. The important things is that Frank Pollack and Bill Lazor have found a way for the offense to function without a great offensive line. They’re taking the pieces they have and making the best out of them.
If this line can keep the pressure to a minimum against a defense like the Ravens, then they should be miles ahead of where they were last season.
Teryl Austin is getting his turnovers
The Bengals have won the turnover battle in each of the last two games, and in both cases it has made the difference. Not only have the Bengals won both of their games 34-23, but they have sealed both games with scores coming off of late fourth quarter fumble recoveries.
Jessie Bates is looking good in his rookie season, and got the game started with an interception in Ravens territory. This pick set up a short field for the offense, and they got the first score of the game following the turnover.
Shawn Williams came in and stepped up after being ejected early in the game last week. Not only did he intercept Joe Flacco to stop their momentum in the third quarter, but forced a fumble to seal the game before the two-minute warning.
Whatever Teryl Austin is preaching, the defense is swallowing whole. Austin’s goal was to force more turnovers, and it appears to be working.
#Bengals have forced five turnovers in two games (3 INT/2 FF). They forced 14 in 16 games a year ago.— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) September 14, 2018
The defensive line is insanely deep
Michael Johnson will not be able to suit for a few weeks due to a knee injury he sustained during the game. Whether or not Johnson is even one of the four best defensive linemen on the team is debatable, but with all the injuries that happened on Thursday his will be the easiest to absorb.
Behind him, Sam Hubbard played very well in his second NFL game. Only recording seven snaps last week, he made up for it with five combined tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.
Then you have the Pro-Bowlers on the line, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Atkins had five tackles and two sacks, while Dunlap was a force in the passing game with three passes broken up, including one that was picked off by Williams.
Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson had quieter games, but still made valuable contributions.
Even without Michael Johnson, this defensive line should be very scary moving forward.