[BTW, sorry to be away from you all for so long. Sometimes life gets in the way of the fun things. Thankfully I see the light at the end of that tunnel approaching for me.]
It’s easy to get down about a 31-point loss. There is no denying that some things went very wrong in this opening game of the season. As obvious as the might be, I will point a couple of them out. When things get that ugly, we can overlook some of the little things that are positive signs. And there were a few of them in this game as well.
1. The Ravens a really good team. At least for now.
They have a lot of weapons on offense. Potent weapons. The offense was so keyed in on Ray Rice (who only had 93 total yds for the game) that there were too many other options at Flacco’s disposal, and he called the right number on seemingly every play. They are going to do that to a lot of teams this year, and they proved why they are the team to beat in the AFC North right now.
While the Ravens are good, they are also old in some key spots. Older players don’t always bounce back fully as the weeks wear on, and I will be curious to see if the Ravens are as potent in December as they are right now.
2. Mike Zimmer and his crew have a lot of work to do.
Giving up 451 total yds is a good way to earn a one-way ticket to Zim’s doghouse. (The Ravens’ offense will give similar treatment to plenty of other teams this year as well.) They have a long way to go before they look like a top 10 defense again. The secondary is still healing and still needs a few weeks to really gel. At some point Taylor Mays has to figure out how to play under control. But keep in mind that this inglorious start has not doomed the defense to a bottom 10 finish to the season. Let’s see how they look against the Browns next week before forming any lasting conclusions.
3. This is just 1 game of 16.
Every head coach in the NFL told his team that when the clock hit 0:00, win or lose. The season isn’t won or lost in Week 1. Remember that the Steelers took a 35-0 beatdown at the hands of the Ravens in Week 1 of the 2011 season, and they still managed to do OK through the rest of the season. I’m not saying the Bengals will finish 12-4 like the Steelers did last year, but a rough first game can be recovered from.
4. A #2 wide receiver was born.
Andrew Hawkins did everything and more to justify all of the support fans have given him, all of the faith that coaches have given him, and all of the love that local sports media has given him. He was quick, shifty, and gashed the Ravens a number of times. For all of us looking for someone to steal sleep away from Browns’ offensive coordinator Brad Childress, we’ve found our man.
Armon Binns also did some nice things against a tough Ravens’ secondary. Brandon Tate, however, did not.
5. BJGE earned my respect.
Cedric who? No whiners allowed this year. I will gladly take The Law Firm, who hammered out 91 yds on 18 carries (5.06 YPC) and added a 4-yd reception. He gutted out the tough yards keep the chains moving. He didn’t trip over the line of scrimmage. And as advertised, he did not fumble. All upgrades over 2011.
UPDATE: With a night to sleep on it, here a few more thoughts on the Bengals’ season opener.
Rey Maualuga’s days are numbered.
That number isn’t small enough to suit some, but it is shrinking just the same. Once Burfict has the coaching staff’s confidence, it won’t take much for Zim to decide that he has seen enough of Rey.
The media template about Andy Dalton’s arm strength needs to be shelved.
Andy out-threw A.J. Green by quite a bit a couple of times, and all of his passes had plenty enough zip. Any talking head referring to “the questions about Dalton’s arm” from this point forward will only prove that he just isn’t paying attention and really isn’t worth his paycheck because he cannot construct an original thought.
The Bengals are still a year or two from being what we really want them to be.
And that’s OK. Remember, we are only about 53 weeks removed from a handful of East Coast media dunderheads predicting an 0-16 record for the Bengals. Despite the tenets of our instant gratification society, teams built for sustained success just aren’t built quickly. Something good is in the works here, but it still needs some time. Don’t let momentary disappointments detract too much from the good things building out on the horizon.