The Cincinnati Bengals are in familiar territory, standing 0-2 to start the season after falling 27-24 to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at Paycor Stadium.
The offense started shaky again but found some rhythm in the second half, only to fall a field goal short. A Joe Burrow interception at the goal line early in the third quarter, followed by a 52-yard bomb from Lamar Jackson to Zay Flowers, swung the game in Baltimore’s favor.
Burrow finished 27 of 41 for 222 yards with two touchdowns and the interception. Both TDs went to Tee Higgins after the receiver failed to catch a pass on eight targets last week. Higgins had eight catches for 89 yards and the two scores against the Ravens.
Here are three quick observations at the gun.
Cincinnati Bengals Week 2 Recap
Much of the focus will be on another sluggish performance from Burrow and the offense, at least early on, but what was more striking was the defense’s inability to get any kind of pash rush against a Ravens team that was missing its top two linemen in center Tyler Linderbaum and tackle Ronnie Stanley.
The defensive line is thought to be one of the deepest and most talented position groups on the team, but Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson had all kinds of time, and he ripped up the Cincinnati secondary because of it, throwing for 237 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bengals had no sacks and just one quarterback hit.
Even when the Bengals got near Jackson, he was able to take off and make plays with his feet, rushing for more than 50 yards, with the Ravens gaining more than 400 as an offense.
Lou Anarumo’s defense didn’t get its first three-and-out until midway through the third quarter when the Ravens ran a draw on 3rd-and-15.
Baltimore converted 3rd-and-3 at its own 32 with 2:35 to go, with Jackson again escaping the pocket for a first down to essentially seal the win.
A Bengals team in desperate need of a spark after a lackluster season-opening loss in Cleveland got a few in the first half, only to wipe them out.
The two biggest ones were a Trey Hendrickson strip-sack of Jackson with linebacker Logan Wilson recovering the ball at the Baltimore 18-yard line. But defensive tackle Zach Carter was called for illegal hands to the face, wiping out the turnover.
Later in the first half, with the Ravens driving to try to break a 10-10 tie, Sam Hubbard sacked Jackson, but a questionable illegal contact penalty on cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt wiped out the sack and gave the Ravens a first down at the Cincinnati 13.
they called this on the defense 😡😡😡 pic.twitter.com/puSkzroXLf
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 17, 2023
The Bengals were putting bullets in their toes from the jump. On their opening drive the week after making just six first downs, Joe Mixon converted a 2nd-and-4 run to move the chains. But a holding penalty on right guard Alex Cappa made it 2nd-and-14, and the possession turned into a three-and-out.
On the next Cincinnati drive, Burrow threw a 25-yard hole shot to tight end Irv Smith Jr. on 3rd-and-8. But Smith failed to get his second foot down inbounds, and the Bengals ended up punting rather than having 1st-and-10 near midfield.
From Jones to Jones
Fear of God initiated.
Back at the NFL Combine in February, Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons said the team was looking for a return man who could put the fear of God in the opposing punter.
The Bengals drafted Charlie Jones in the fourth round, and in the second quarter Sunday, he gave the franchise its first punt return for a touchdown in more than a decade.
Jones went 81 yards untouched with 13:14 left in the second quarter to tie the game 7-7.
81-YARD PUNT RETURN TD @BENGALS
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2023
It appeared the play could fall into the first observation above when an official chucked a flag 25 yards, signaling the touchdown was going to be called back. But after a conference, the officials announced there was no penalty on the play, and the touchdown stood.
Jones, whom Bengals teammates call “Chuck Sizzle,” delivered his 81-yard touchdown 11 years and one day after another Jones — Adam “Pacman” Jones — had an 81-yard punt return in a 34-27 victory against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 16, 2012. That also was the home opener in Week 2.
In the season opener, Jones had three punt returns for 24 yards in the rain at Cleveland.
Sunday’s 81-yarder is a sign is a good sign from the 2021 Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year.
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