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5 things we learned from the Bengals’ brutal loss to the Ravens

It’s time to think about getting a new left guard.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

In a critical game that would’ve altered the playoff prospects of two AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens both lost critical players.

For the Bengals, losing quarterback Joe Burrow to a hand injury was far too much to overcome, and the Ravens went on a 27-10 run with him out of the game.

The loss stings. The injuries sting more. But with all adversity, there is something to learn. Let’s do just that.

Jake Browning isn’t that bad

That was not an easy situation to step into for a QB with zero starts to his name. The Ravens are an absolute force on defense, and this was a primetime game on the road. Even the great Joe Burrow was struggling before he was injured.

Browning, who looked a bit reckless with the ball in the preseason, operated within Zac Taylor’s system and took shots down the field confidently and appropriately.

The 27-year-old veteran had good chemistry with Trenton Irwin and just barely missed him on a couple of big plays that could’ve made the game a lot closer. Browning’s passes were generally on target. His biggest issue was not his passing but his inability to avoid sacks.

Trey Hendrickson is built differently

We knew he was one of the best pass rushers in the league, but it’s a rare breed of athlete that can not only quickly overcome injury (hyperextended knee) but also continue to play at a dominant level (think Terrell Owens in Super Bowl XXXIX).

Hendrickson did just that against the Ravens, with a sack, a QB hit, and two tackles for loss.

Cordell Volson will need to be replaced

Tight end? Running back? A Tee Higgins replacement?

None of those are as urgent needs on offense as left guard, considering just how critical it is to keep Burrow upright.

If the Bengals are serious about contending, they’ll need to upgrade the position.

Games are never going to be easy against Baltimore’s defense

For those of us (like me) hoping to see offensive fireworks against the Ravens like we did in 2021, I got bad news: Mike MacDonald is not Wink Martindale, and it’s not close at all. The new defensive coordinator is way too prepared for Taylor’s plays for the Bengals to be able to move the ball effortlessly.

Orlando Brown Jr. isn’t elite

We can stop trying to talk ourselves into it now. He’s great. Big and athletic. But he doesn’t provide airtight pass protection like Trent Williams, and he probably never will.

So that’s what we learned. Our concerns, meanwhile, are mostly about Burrow’s wrist and the backup QB situation. If the franchise can’t go for a few weeks, it’ll be very hard, but not impossible, to make the playoffs.

We’ll next see the Bengals play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, November 26.