With each passing week, the storylines with the Cincinnati Bengals are now more in how they lose. Is it a blowout like in Weeks 2 and 4, or last-minute heartbreakers like Weeks 1, 3 and 5?
As it turned out, this week felt like the former for most of the afternoon and ended up somewhere in the middle. Here are the best and worst performers in the Bengals’ 17-23 loss to the Ravens.
Brandon Wilson: The backup defensive back has been pressed into kick return duties because of injuries to Alex Erickson (who was back in the lineup, primarily as a receiver) and Darius Phillips. He flashed with a couple of nice returns last week, but popped a 92-yard touchdown return to start the game off with a bang. He also grabbed the late onside kick, but it didn’t travel 10 yards.
Auden Tate: “Mr. Back Shoulder” had a day against the Ravens. He was seen diving for grabs and out-jostling defensive backs, keeping the Bengals in the game.
Tate had four catches for 64 yards in the first half, setting up two golden opportunities for points (in which the Bengals only netted three points). He also forced two big pass interference penalties on the team’s final drive of the game.
Josh Tupou: Despite the massive rushing stats, the big nose tackle was effective in limited snaps. Both of his tackles were for losses, but he just wasn’t in the game frequently enough to have a bigger impact.
Andy Dalton: By the conclusion of the first quarter, Dalton had zero passing yards. With the Bengals still within striking distance late in the second quarter, Dalton made a poor decision that resulted in an interception from the Ravens’ 21-yard line that ended up being a major difference in the contest. He finished a pedestrian 21-of-39 for 235 yards, zero touchdown passes (one on the ground) and an interception.
Joe Mixon: The team’s running back being on this list is more of his being a victim of the erosion around him. Cincinnati’s offense is completely unable to run the football because of a myriad of issues.
And, with the aforementioned line issues, Cincinnati needs to use Giovani Bernard’s pass-blocking prowess more frequently, thus eliminating the productivity of two talented backs. Mixon finished with eight carries for 10 yards, to go with two catches for 29 yards.
Name a linebacker: On one Gus Edwards run in the second quarter, Nick Vigil missed two tackle attempts in a single play. In the third quarter, both he and Preston Brown missed attempts on a Seth Roberts catch that went for 16 yards.
These were just microcosms of the play by the group on Sunday. Germaine Pratt didn’t prove to be a cure-all either, as the Ravens racked up 228 yards on the ground.
John Jerry: Last week, Jerry came in and played admirably for the struggling Andre Smith at left tackle. Through three-plus quarters, Jerry’s name wasn’t called, which is often a good sign for an offensive lineman, but he was exploited on a late drive. He let up three pressures and a sack on the team’s touchdown drive in the final minutes.
Lou Anarumo: The rookie defensive coordinator’s unit had the dubious distinction of letting the Ravens net 150 yards in the opening quarter—the third such team to do so against Baltimore. In the early going, Anarumo’s defense seemed to have been taken completely by surprise by the Ravens’ run-pass option style of offense which is baffling because even the most casual NFL fan knows that this is how Lamar Jackson operates best.
Missed tackles continued to be a theme, as Jackson, Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram ran all over the group. They allowed Jackson to have a career-high in rushing yards with 152 (third all-time for quarterbacks in a single game), while the Ravens had 497 total yards in the contest.
Zac Taylor: With each passing week, Taylor looks more and more in-over-his-head. He challenged a non-pass interference call which was upheld in the first half and he failed to challenge a potential fumble by Willie Snead IV at the onset of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati faced a critical third-and-6, but took a timeout. The subsequent play was a predictable screen to Giovani Bernard that was doomed from the get-go. And, when the team needed timeouts to have a prayer at the end of the game, the cupboard was empty from burning them earlier in the second half (either on a methodical Ravens drive, or via miscommunication on offense).
The picking of nits aside, Taylor’s offense looks completely inept in the red zone. Cincinnati’s offense were deep in Ravens’ territory twice in the first half, coming away with just three points (interception and field goal). Taylor also preached the importance of running the football this offseason, and the 31st-ranked unit didn’t show much improvement, running for just 33 yards against the Ravens.