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Three-Down Look: Bengals Outclassed in Baltimore

Three-Down Look: Bengals Outclassed in Baltimore

The Cincinnati Bengals came up short in the first measuring-stick game of the Joe Burrow Era, falling 27-3 to Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. It was just the sixth time since 2010 the Bengals were held to three points or less. 

Let's take a three-down look of the Baltimore bludgeoning.

First down: Burrow bungles in Baltimore

Something had to give in the matchup between Burrow and the Ravens blitz-heavy scheme. The rookie had played his best ball this season when attacked with extra rushers but that wasn't the case against Baltimore. Burrow completed 19-of-30 passes for 183 yards, one interception and one lost fumble. His 5.5 QBR was the lowest of his young career. He put the ball on the ground via a separate strip-sack and finished 3-of-9 for 15 yards on 18 pressured drop backs according to Pro Football Focus.

Burrow took seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits during the least efficient performance yet from a Zac Taylor offense. The franchise quarterback hasn't made a lot of rookie mistakes this season, but the interception was his worst yet.

Fans will throw more dirt on the offensive line for making Burrow the comfortable league leader in sacks taken, but he has to get rid of the ball faster. Multiple collapses were the result of Burrow haphazardly holding the ball and taking big hits when he should've dumped it away. The margin for error is paper-thin with the Bengals protection and the hits are starting to pile up.

Second Down: D.J. Reader and A.J. Green Injuries Loom Large

The two veterans have been on opposite ends of the production spectrum and exited Sunday's contest early. The Reader diagnosis turned into a worst-case scenario. He is expected to miss the rest of the season with a quad injury. He was carted off the field in the third quarter.

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The Bengals entered training camp thinking their defensive line could dominate with Geno Atkins and Reader leading the way. In year one they ended up logging a little more than one half of game time together. Cincinnati will likely hit the market again for a free agent addition, but no one will replace what Reader brought to the table. He led all defensive linemen in solo tackles heading into the game and sported a 71.3 PFF grade.

On the other side of the ball, A.J. "Raven Killer" Green no-showed in the first half. He left the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter and didn't return. Green came into the game with the second-lowest average separation among NFL pass catchers and it was a precursor to Sunday's performance. He didn't have a reception and was targeted once. 

It was just the third time in his career he failed to catch a pass in a game where he was targeted. The other two came when he suffered major injuries against Buffalo in 2016 and Denver in 2018. There's no word yet on how long Green will be out, but the trajectory of his play is a lot different than it was previously. The franchise tag Cincinnati slapped on him this offseason is looking more and more like a sunk cost.

Third Down: Logan Wilson and Company Make it Tough on Baltimore

It wasn't all bad news in the blowout loss. The Bengals held Jackson to a career-low 4.9 yards per attempt. They also kept Baltimore right around their season average with 161 rushing yards. The Bengals did a nice job of forcing Jackson to throw on the run without losing contain. The reigning MVP rushed for three yards on two carries, which is the lowest rushing total he's ever posted as a starter.

Josh Bynes, Jessie Bates, and Logan Wilson played a key role in containing Jackson. Bynes and Bates combined for 15 tackles and two passes defended. Wilson didn't get his nose in on many tackles, but he was a big part of the Bengals coverage scheme with an interception and a pass defended.

The scouting report on Wilson coming out of Wyoming is ringing true and he now leads all NFL linebackers with two interceptions on the year. 

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