Andy Dalton applied a Hue Jackson gameplan that forced quick throws and screens. Dalton completed 25 of 38 passes for 301 yards passing and a touchdown -- a football that was juggled around by A.J. Green. Giovani Bernard finished the game tied for a team-high six receptions for 62 yards. Most of those were screens. Mohamed Sanu added four receptions for 36 yards receiving.
Unfortunately Tyler Eifert suffered an injury that could force him for an extended period of time. He still finished with the third-most yardage on the team, covering 37 yards on three grabs. Jermaine Gresham was a little quiet, posting two grabs on five targets for only 16 yards receiving.
In addition to the quick passes, screens and general passing plays that prohibit the opposing defense from generating a charge, the Bengals offensive line did their part by preventing any quarterback sacks and only two quarterback hurries. It was a safe passing offense.
For all of the fluff and dictation about Cincinnati establishing a stronger running game this season, it felt like much of the same. Giovani Bernard carried the ball 14 times and averaged 3.4 yards per rush. Where have we seen that before? Jeremy Hill added 19 yards on four carries, but his performance felt like a flash in the pan. Weren't we supposed to see more balanced distribution or, at the very least, an effective running game? If we include the migraine-inducing read-option runs by Andy Dalton, the Bengals finished the game with 79 yards rushing and a 3.0 yard/rush average.
It's not necessarily the running backs that should be blamed either... especially when you consider that Jermaine Gresham was the highest graded run blocker on Cincinnati's offense, per Pro Football Focus.
Generally speaking the Bengals passing defense held their own. Joe Flacco had a pocket throughout most of the game, but he was assaulted a lot. Cincinnati generated three quarterback sacks, including two at the end of the game to seal the Bengals win. The defense added an additional seven hits and three rushes on Joe Flacco, who threw a third quarter interception to Emmanuel Lamur. He took 65 drop backs.
That said, there were gaps. Flacco completed 35 passes for 345 yards passing -- including an 80-yard touchdown to Steve Smith on a broken down play while Flacco was rolling out. Not only did Adam Jones allow Smith to break free, he was unable to make a touchdown-saving tackle.
Originally the Bengals were shutting down Baltimore's rushing offense; especially Bernard Pierce, who lost a fumble that led to points for Cincinnati. That's when Justin Forsett entered the game, slicing and dicing Cincinnati's defense... who were becoming more and more winded throughout the second half. Then there's the 13-yard touchdown run on a pitch down the right sidelines. While Baltimore didn't eclipse 100 yards rushing, they did average 4.6 yard/rush.
One could argue that most of Baltimore's success was two-fold... Cincinnati's offense went cold, preventing the defense from resting for long periods of time, and that Vontaze Burfict departed just prior to Baltimore heating up.
Mike Nugent crushed five field goals but the blocked field goal loomed large at the time due to the shift in momentum throughout the third quarter. Luckily the blocked field goal didn't cost the Bengals. Two plays later, Flacco threw an interception to Emmanuel Lamur. Adam Jones added a 45-yard punt return that led to Cincinnati's second field goal. Jacoby Jones was mostly contained on kickoff returns and neutralized on punt returns. After the Bengals wooful preseason on special teams, it was a good recovery from Darrin Simmons' group.