The big difference in this game was Lamar Jackson looking comfortable in his new offense, and Joe Burrow still looking timid at times as well as rusty. Cincinnati was able to make a run of it in the second half to make it interesting, but ultimately they came up short again.
Here is how it played out.
The Bengals elected to defer, so the Ravens started off the game with the ball. Lamar Jackson was on point. He hit several receivers, including tight end Mark Andrews, who is playing in his first game of the season. They converted several third downs on the drive that ended with a Gus Edwards touchdown up the gut after Odell Beckham Jr. set them up on the one-yard line. Baltimore chewed up just under eight minutes on the drive as well.
A Cincinnati three-and-out was followed up by another successful drive by Baltimore. It only took a couple of plays for the Ravens to get into Bengals territory. The drive stalled with an overthrow by Jackson to rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers. Kicker Justin Tucker missed the 59-yard field goal, which gave the Bengals decent field position to start the drive.
The Bengals only managed to get two yards on the drive as the offense looked timid to try and throw the ball downfield. They were able to pin the Ravens at their own 10-yard line. Cincinnati’s defense was able to force a fumble that would’ve been able to set up the offense in the red zone. That was called back with an iffy hands-to-the-face penalty.
The Ravens were forced to punt following that penalty, and rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones was able to make a man miss and take it 81 yards for a touchdown, the first touchdown for Cincinnati on the season.
The Bengals' defense was able to hold the Ravens’ offense to just three points on the following drive. Jackson was able to hit some receivers at the chains, and the running game was moving the offense. The defense keeps doing its part to keep the game in striking distance for the offense.
We finally saw Burrow and the offense get on a role after a defensive pass interference gave them a first down to start the drive. Joe Mixon got going on the ground, and Tee Higgins also made a few catches. The important part was we actually saw some first downs. However, it came to a stop around the Ravens’ 10-yard line after Chase was unable to come down with a heavily contested back shoulder pass. Kicker Evan McPherson was able to tie things up at 10 with three minutes before the half.
Baltimore ate up the rest of the clock in the first half. They had a solid drive going, but once they made it close to the red zone, all hell broke loose. First, a Bengals sack was erased by an illegal contact call against Cam Taylor-Britt that was obviously just Beckham literally pulling the young corner into him.
Then the refs called back-to-back holds against the Baltimore offensive line to set up a 3rd-and-30 and drained most of the remainder of the clock. The Ravens had Jackson run a quarterback draw up the middle for 11 yards to make it an easier field goal for Tucker. He made his second kick of the day and had the Ravens walking into the locker room with a three-point lead.
To illustrate the difference in how these offenses looked, the Ravens had 17 total first downs, and the Bengals ran 17 total plays. You can attribute some of that to the Jones punt return taking away a possession, but it is still an unacceptable number.
The Bengals received the ball for the second half. Burrow was able to get out of the pocket on a play, and the offense was boosted by an amazing play call that left Mixon open for a 30-yard catch and run. However, disaster struck in the red zone as Burrow left a ball hanging over the middle for safety Geno Stone to pick off the pass and return it to just about the 40-yard line.
Jackson followed up the turnover with a deep shot to Zay Flowers that went for 52 yards to put the Ravens inside the 10-yard line. On third down, the Ravens were able to get Andrews the ball on a flat to extend the ball over the goal line for his first touchdown of the year. It put the Ravens up 20-10 after the turnover.
The following drive saw Chase get some yardage, which included a much-needed third down conversion via a deep out route. After that, Burrow got into a bit of a rhythm on the drive. It ultimately ended with Higgins going up and making a catch for the touchdown over a smaller defender who never had a chance. That also came after Higgins and Burrow connected on the sideline previously near the same spot, but Higgins didn’t have enough space to get his feet in bounds. The Bengals trailed 17-20 at this point.
Baltimore started off the drive with a big run by Gus Edwards for over 20 yards. Then the offense was put behind the sticks with a holding call on the Ravens, but a big pass to Andrews over the middle allowed them to pick up a huge first down with a four-yard run putting them inside the Bengals' 35-yard line and at least field goal range for Tucker.
The drive ends with a perfect throw from Jackson to Nelson Agholor for a 17-yard touchdown over the shoulder. The Ravens converted three third downs on the drive, and it makes the makes the margin for the Bengals razor-thin with just over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals really are out to test how much room for error they have left as they went three-and-out giving the Ravens the ball with about nine minutes left. The defense at least stepped up by forcing the Ravens into their first three-and-out of the game.
Burrow and the offense had themselves quite the drive. He was able to hit Boyd to convert a pivotal fourth down. Ultimately Higgins made the touchdown catch on a 3rd-and-goal with Burrow backpedaling on the throw. A McPherson extra point cut the Ravens' lead to only three points and about three and a half minutes left in the game.
The Bengals' defense did its best forcing a crucial 3rd-and-three. Unfortunately, like Jackson did most of the game, he was able to find an open running lane and get the first down that was practically the game.
For what it is worth, the Ravens were able to pick up another first down and kneel out the game.
The Bengals are now in a familiar spot at 0-2, but this is different from last year as they are now 0-2 against AFC North opponents in a year where it looks like the Ravens and Cleveland Browns could push for that title. This team has now lost to both of those teams. Cincinnati will now need some serious help from outside of the division to defeat these teams rather than worrying about taking care of their business.
This isn’t the season being over. We saw this team string together a ton of wins last year and make it all the way to the AFC Championship. They can still do that this year, but this offense needs to keep up what it was doing in the second half. They have to start picking up wins sooner rather than later to dig themselves out of yet another 0-2 hole.