The outcome of the first two weeks were pretty much exactly the way the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t want to start their 2023 campaign. Another 0-2 start is on the books, with more troubling signs for at least the short term.
Here are the best and worst performers of Cincinnati’s 24-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in their home opener.
For the first two weeks, Mixon has been the most consistent offensive player for the Bengals. No. 28 was doing some great work through the air and on the ground, churning up 95 (59 rushing, 36 receiving) tough total yards.
What a bounce-back game for “Cinco”. Higgins hauled in two touchdowns and was the most consistent receiving threat for the Bengals with eight catches for 89 yards and a couple of scores.
“Chuck Sizzle” has officially entered the building. No. 15 gave the Bengals their first touchdown of the 2023 season on an electric 81-yard punt return for a score, showing why the Bengals were excited to land him in the fourth round this year.
The offensive line through three quarters
Mixon once again averaged over four yards per carry in the game, and Joe Burrow was kept relatively clean until the final frame when Cincinnati went pass-happy. Jedeveon Clowney had the lone sack for the Ravens.
The offensive play-callers
Cincinnati had zero touchdowns through the first six quarters of the year and only two offensive first downs through nearly that same span, save for their final possession of the first half versus the Ravens. And, somewhat troubling for the time being, the Bengals’ offense has turned into a pass-happy unit.
We know it’s a brain trust and play-caller by committee, comprised of Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan with input from Burrow, but there have been some head-scratchers this year. In reality, Cincinnati’s offense will probably need to reinvent itself in some ways again in 2023, much like they had to after another 0-2 start again.
The passing offense
Midway through the third quarter, Burrow had just 84 yards passing, coming on the heels of a career-worst day against Cleveland. The league’s highest-paid player also had an egregious red zone interception on the opening drive of the second half, creating what could have been a 10 or 14-point swing with Baltimore responding with a touchdown.
Things turned around after halftime with the Bengals getting in the end zone twice in the second half through the air. Still, a goose egg in the first quarter and inconsistencies through the first half put the team behind the eight-ball for the second week in a row.
The fourth-quarter offensive line
After holding their own through the first three quarters, things began breaking down when the Bengals had to play catch-up and pass more frequently. Jonah Williams had a particularly tough time with Jadeveon Clowney, who had a fourth-quarter sack, two total hits, and other pressures at the end of the game.
The Bengals just didn’t have answers for the Baltimore Ravens’ offense on Sunday. Whether it was Lamar Jackson getting more yards on runs than he should have, Gus Edwards being a problem as a first-down converter, or Mark Andrews getting 20 yards on a 2nd-and-23, issues abounded.
Baltimore had just one punt into the fourth quarter (which resulted in the Jones return touchdown) and two overall, with all other drives leading in scores or opportunities for them (Justin Tucker missed a field goal in the first quarter). Throw in long, sustained drives, and this Bengals defense has been gassed from being on the field too much these first two weeks.
He’ll get a bit of a pass because of the team’s great rebound from the 0-2 start last year, but this has been as maddening of a start as any. Expectations are high, and the offense having less than 300 combined passing yards in two games and two divisional losses to kick off the year is troubling.
There was also some questionable clock and timeout management at the end of the game. While Taylor isn’t the lone person to blame for this start by any stretch, the quarterback and head coach always are the first in line when high expectations aren’t being met.