So that sucked.
There are 15 games to go, the season is far from over, the defense can (and should) improve, yada-yada-yada.
It’s too early to panic—no loading lifeboats just yet. But last night’s 3rd quarter meltdown is troubling to say the least. Essentially the defense was looking like hot garbage all game, and the offense simply started making mistakes in its bid to keep up.
Let’s hope Brandon Weeden keeps throwing picks next Sunday.
In the meantime, here is my weekly hit list, with the goats, heroes, Bengals MVP, and random observations from last night’s debacle.
Goats-These Bengals contributed heavily to the loss:
- Leon Hall: Supposedly our best corner, Hall was slow-roasted on an open flame all night. It seemed like every time Baltimore had a big offensive play—from the very first snap—good old number 29 was there flailing his arms, looking the wrong way, or 3 steps behind. Maybe the Achilles is acting up or not sufficiently healed. Maybe he’s rusty and still working his way back. Maybe he’s just overrated.
- Rey Maualuga: This guy has to be on notice at this point. While he was also coming off an injury that kept him out the last few weeks, he looked bad. He was slow to read plays, (or overreacted to fakes), and was generally not aggressive. On Ray Rice’s first TD run, Maualuga got bulldozed and like a 3rd grader by Ravens OL Marshall Yanda. I’m kind of over this guy at this point and would like to see Skuta and Burfict get some more of his snaps.
- Taylor Mays: Mays was poor in coverage, getting torched on the Boldin touchdown (or non-TD), and was called for a 15-yard penalty that wasn’t even close. He hit the defenseless receiver with the helmet, to the receiver’s helmet, and launching his body. He basically did everything you’re taught not to, and he what he’s been personally flagged for all preseason. I’m not sure what he’s bringing to the defense at this point. Jeromy Miles, by comparison, played a decent game.
- Jermaine Gresham: Dude, where were you??
- Andy Dalton: I love the Red Rifle as much as the next guy, but his interception and fumble killed any chances for the Bengals in the third quarter. He also missed an open A.J. Green in the first half, took a bad sack that effectively killed a drive in Baltimore territory.
Dishonorable mention: Brandon Tate
Heroes—These Bengals did their best in a losing effort:
- Andrew Hawkins: This guy has some serious quickness and reliable hands. I am still amused at how some were 100% convinced the team would cut him and keep Shipley a few weeks ago. The guy single-handedly kept some drives going. Hawkins is our #2 receiver, and Jay Gruden needs to keep finding ways to get him the ball. Those screen plays were excellent, but more is needed.
- BJGE: The new tailback was the anti-Benson: He didn’t fumble and converted multiple 3rd-and-short opportunities. He found a way to get at least a yard on every carry, finishing with an impressive 91 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 average!) and found the end zone in his first game as a Bengal. He also served as an adequate blocker in blitz pick-up and was a sure-handed safety valve out of the backfield for Dalton.
- Interior O-Line: Much was made of the fact that the interior offensive line was new or inexperienced, and going against Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis. Overall, though, Jeff Faine played a great game at center, and both Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler acquitted themselves well in the run game and pass pro. I thought they actually did better than the tackles, where Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth both had a couple of bad snaps.
- Geno Atkins: Two sacks last night for the pro bowler. He’s extremely active on the defensive line and gets great push in the passing game. If only there was an edge rusher to draw the quarterback towards him (we’re looking at you, Carlos Dunlap).
- A.J. Green: Workman-like 70 yards, and worked hard to get open from multiple spots. He also had a clear catch taken away from him by the boneheaded officials.
Honorable mentions: Mike Nugent
Bengals MVP: BJGE
Green-Ellis edges Hawkins for this week’s MVP award. The Law Firm was as-advertised as a ball carrier and quietly went about his lunch-pail work all night. Hawkins was a dynamo with the ball in his hands, but BJGE gets the nod for scoring the lone touchdown, and in being able to actually get positive yardage in third-and-short situations.
Random Observations (no Haikus):
- The replacement referees weren’t good. They took a catch away from A.J. Green, and gave a clearly incomplete pass to Anquan Boldin for a touchdown. Had that been ruled incomplete, who knows what might have happened. It might be a stretch to say they impacted the outcome, but maybe not. Maybe Baltimore punts, the Bengals score, and it’s a different game the rest of the way.
- Despite having four months to prepare for this game, the Bengal defense looked out of sorts, out of position, and confused. The secondary stocked with first round picks looks terrible and not cohesive. Either that or Flacco is now Dan Marino.
- This was a very difficult task for the Bengals to start the season with, and they are not as bad as they looked last night. That being said, the defense needs to re-evaluate themselves in a hurry because the offense isn’t ready to score 40 points a week.