2018 Cincinnati Bengals: Five things to know
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Bengals Report Card: Grading Thursday’s 34-23 win over the Ravens

Four days after the Baltimore Ravens held Buffalo to three points in a rout, the Cincinnati Bengals jumped out to a 21-0 lead en route to a high-scoring win against their AFC North rivals.

The Bengals improved to 2-0 with a 34-23 win over Baltimore in their home opener Thursday at Paul Brown Stadium and now sit alone atop the division standings.

»ARCHDEACON: Dunlap switches focus from Florence to Flacco

Unlike their season-opening win at Indianapolis on Sunday, which resulted in the exact same score, Cincinnati used a fast start to propel itself to victory and fended off a second-half comeback by the Ravens, who scored 16 straight points to make it a five-point game with 9:35 left. The Bengals responded with their first points in 30 minutes and finished strong in all phases to seal the win.

»RELATED: 5 takeaways from Bengals’ win

Cincinnati now has 10 days to rest and prepare for the Panthers on Sept. 23. Here are the grades in the Week 2 Report Card:

RUSH OFFENSE

The Good: If there was still any doubt after Week 1, it’s clear Joe Mixon is the real deal. Despite coming off the field twice for entire drives because of a first-quarter knee injury, he finished with 84 yards on 21 carries (4.0 yards per carry). Giovani Bernard stepped in and added 27 yards on six rushes (4.5 YPC).

The Bad: The Bengals ran the ball just five times in the third quarter as the offense stalled, and overall there were five carries for losses. A holding penalty on Alex Redmond negated a 6-yard run by Mixon killed the first drive of the second half.

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Key Play: Mixon’s 21-yard carry on first down from the Baltimore 37-yard line with 5:59 left helped set up Bullock’s first of two field goals in the fourth quarter, which proved key in making the Bengals’ lead stand up.

Grade: A-

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, left, gives five to wide receiver A.J. Green after Green score a touchdown Thursday, Sept. 13 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens 34-23. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Photo: Contributing Writer

PASS OFFENSE

The Good: Andy Dalton had 178 yards passing and four touchdowns by halftime, including three touchdown catches for A.J. Green on his first three touches, and he wasn’t sacked once. The Ravens had gotten to the Bills’ quarterbacks for six sacks and eventually backed down on their blitz after it didn’t seem to be working against Cincinnati, either because of protection or Dalton getting passes off quickly. Three different tight ends had multiple catches, and Tyler Boyd led the receivers with 91 yards on six catches with one score.

»PHOTOS: View 43 images from the game

The Bad: Cincinnati was 0-for-3 on third down in the third quarter. John Ross was targeted four times and finished with just one catch for eight yards. Alex Redmond allowed three pressures.

Key Play: The three touchdowns to Green gave the Bengals a 21-0 lead and was too much for the Ravens to overcome.

Grade: B+

RUSH DEFENSE

The Good: The Ravens carried the ball 22 times for just 66 yards, and their longest run was for 14 yards.

The Bad: Two runs to convert third downs helped sustain a drive in which the Ravens cut the deficit to five points in the fourth quarter.

Key Play: The defense set the tone against the run when Dre Kirkpatrick and Nick Vigil made a tackle on Alex Collins to hold him to 1 yard on second-and-10 the first carry of the game. Baltimore went three-and-out and never got much of a running game going.

Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals safety Shawn Williams gets an interception Thursday, Sept. 13 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens 34-23. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Photo: Contributing Writer

PASS DEFENSE

The Good: The Bengals had sacks on three of the Ravens’ first four drives, leading to punts, and the other drive was halted by Jessie Bates’ first career interception. Cincinnati sacked Joe Flacco four total times, including one by rookie defensive end Sam Hubbard. Flacco was picked off twice with Shawn Williams coming up with the second one after Carlos Dunlap deflected the pass.

The Bad: A defensive pass interference call on Dre Kirkpatrick, a penalty of 30 yards, put the Ravens on the 1-yard line at end of second quarter to set up Mark Andrew’s 1-yard touchdown catch to make it 28-14 going into halftime. Flacco threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns, and John Brown had two big catches.

Key Play: Williams’ sack fumble on Flacco from the Ravens’ 25-yard line with 2:42 left pretty much secured the win for the Bengals. Jordan Willis recovered, and the Bengals took advantage of the short field to add one last field goal for the final score.

Grade: B+

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Good: Bullock remains perfect on field goals and made two key ones in the fourth quarter. Tony McRae forced a fumble on a punt return, and although the Ravens got it back, they were intercepted the next play.

The Bad: The Bengals muffed two punts.

Key Play: Bullock’s 40-yard field sealed the win with 2:29 left.

Grade: B

COACHING

The Good: Bill Lazor’s use of the running game is a welcome change after the team finished among the bottom two in the league for rushing yards last year. The Bengals are averaging 104.5 rushing yards, which is an improvement of 19 yards per game, and it seems they are just getting started. Additionally, Teryl Austin’s aggressive approach on defense paid off for three turnovers.

The Bad: The decision to pass three straight times with just about a minute left in the first half (rather than run it to get to halftime) didn’t pan out, but had it worked, the Bengals likely add to a 28-7 lead and prevent the Ravens from the late touchdown that made it 28-14 going into halftime.

Key Play: After the Ravens made it a five-point game, the Bengals came out with a nice mix of runs between Bernard and Mixon, which ultimately ended a 30-minute scoring drought at a crucial time. Randy Bullock kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:59 left.

Grade: A

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