Week 5 was a rough one for Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
After going on a two-game non-losing streak for the first time since early in the 2018 season, there was hope the Bengals could be competitive in Baltimore and make it a four-quarter game.
Surprisingly, the defense did its part, holding the Ravens to just 20 offensive points while containing Lamar Jackson better than most defenses have.
But the offense was a complete disaster, highlighted by Burrow having his worst game as a pro as Cincinnati fell 27-3.
Here are the three biggest takeaways from the game.
Joe Burrow was completely confused
It’s obvious that Joe Burrow had never seen a defense like the Ravens before. He had no idea what to do.
Burrow took seven sacks, was constantly throwing from outside the pocket, and had pressure in his face nearly every play. After throwing for more than 300 yards in three straight weeks, he threw for less than 200 against the Ravens because he could never get his feet set.
Credit is due to the Ravens for dialing up a scheme that would confuse a rookie quarterback, even one as highly praised as Burrow.
They would load the line of scrimmage with five to seven defenders, then blitz some and drop others in coverage. There didn’t seem to be any pattern as to who or how many they would blitz.
As a result, Burrow took a lot of hits.
A perfect example of Burrows’ confusion was on his interception to Marcus Peters. The Ravens put six defenders on the line of scrimmage, and Burrow was in shotgun in an empty formation. From there, all six Ravens rushed Burrow, only five offensive linemen were able to block, and Chuck Clark had a free shot at Burrow. On his back foot, Burrow lobbed the ball into the air, and Peters grabbed the jump ball.
The Bengals’ offensive line is bad, but that’s a dead horse we won’t beat. As bad as the line is, however, a lot of sacks and hurries are on Burrow. He held onto the ball too long, he didn’t have good pre-snap reads, and didn’t adjust his protection.
This should be a wakeup call for Burrow. He needs to hit the film room and study this defense. He needs to learn what he needs to do on the field to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The NFL is a copycat league, which means the Bengals will see this again. It could be as soon as next week in Indianapolis. Burrow needs to figure this out or it will be his achilles heel.
But if Burrow is as advertised, he will figure it out sooner rather than later.
A.J. Green looks worse each week
If you took the nameplate off of A.J. Greens’ jersey, would you know he was a seven-time Pro Bowler? Or would you think he was an undrafted player and wonder why he was on the field?
Green had a whole target for an interception. He had to leave the game with an injury, which might be the nail in the coffin. There’s no timeline for his return, which will supremely hurt his chances of a long-term deal, especially if Tee Higgins plays as well has he has been playing.
Zac says Reader out for the year; Hubbard out this week and maybe more; No timeline for A. J. Green.— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) October 12, 2020
The worst part about Green’s performance is how he played on the interception. That was a disaster of a play from start to finish, but Green didn’t help at all. He gave up on the route and didn’t contest the jump ball. Then after the catch, he had a shot at an easy tackle on Peters but made a business decision.
Marcus Peters, the former Husky 1st Round pick, with an interception against the Bengals— WestCoastCFB (@WestCoastCFB) October 11, 2020
The road back for Green is long and difficult. It seems like the $18 million experiment is over after five short weeks.
The defense kept the Bengals in the game
For as bad as this Bengals’ defense has been, they figured things out on Sunday.
If the Bengals’ played like they did against the Browns, this game would have been a disaster. But the Bengals changed things up, and it worked wonderfully.
The Bengals’ defense kept Lamar Jackson to only 180 passing yards on a 51.4 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 78.1. He was only sacked once, but had only two rushes for three yards.
Normally, if Jackson has that meager of a statline, you would think the opponent has a good chance of winning the game.
On the plus side, the Bengals just forced Lamar Jackson to have his worst game, per PFF, since Week 3 of 2019 against the Chiefs.— Jake (@Jake_NFL) October 12, 2020
How did the Bengals do it?
One way was they ran out of a base 4-3 formation rather than the usual nickel. Last season, one—but by no means the only—reason the Bengals struggled against the run was because of their insistence to use the nickel formation on every down.
Whether it was due to the threat of Jackson running, the fact that the Bengals’ linebackers are so much better in coverage this year than last year, or the number of injuries at cornerback, the Bengals worked out of a formation that gave them an advantage this week.
Another thing they did well was copy the Ravens and send DBs in on blitzes.
Oddly, Darius Philips was the Bengals’ best pass rusher on Sunday.
Darius Phillips was the highest-graded defender for the #Bengals in their loss to the Ravens.— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) October 12, 2020
Phillips earned an 83.4 overall grade, as well as an exceptional 94.0 pass-rush grade (7 attempts, 3 pressures, 2 batted passes).
Even though the Bengals gave up 17 points on the first three drives of the game, a total of 20 points on defense should be enough to at least keep it close.