Rushing Offense: C-
All the hype about new coordinator Hue Jackson wanting to run the ball seemed like nine months of misdirection as the Bengals came out and threw passes on seven of the first 10 snaps on the opening drive. They never seemed truly committed to running the ball.
Cincinnati finished with just 79 yards on 26 rushes for a 3.0 average. Giovani Bernard had runs of 16 and 7 yards, but his other 12 carries resulted in a mere 25 yards. Rookie Jeremy Hill was impressive but was barely used, finishing with four carries for 18 yards.
Passing Offense: A-
No interceptions, no sacks, 301 yards and a game-winning 77-yard bomb from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green just seconds after Baltimore had taken the lead in the fourth quarter. Not even Dalton’s biggest detractors could find much fault with Sunday’s performance.
The only blemishes were converting only 4 of 14 third-down chances and failing to score a touchdown on two visits into the red zone.
Rushing Defense: B-
The Ravens only had 91 yards on the ground, but that was more a result of them going away from the run rather than the Bengals taking it away.
Baltimore only ran it 20 times, and the team that finished 30th in the NFL in rushing offense last year at 3.1 yards per attempt went for 4.6. The Ravens did it with the unsung tandem of Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce with starter Ray Rice serving a suspension.
Passing Defense: B-
Yes the Ravens had 329 passing yards, but quarterback Joe Flacco needed to tie his career high of 62 attempts to get there. The Bengals were effective in disrupting Flacco’s rhythm with their blitzes despite sacking him once before the final drive.
The 80-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Steve Smith, where Adam Jones dropped coverage and missed a tackle, could have been a break-breaker, but Dalton and Green bailed the defense out. And the back-to-back sacks to end Baltimore’s final drive were huge.
Special Teams: B+
Adam Jones was one wiggle away from turning an already-spectacular 45-yard punt return into a score, and Mike Nugent hit his first five field goal attempts to tie his career high before halftime. But the grade has to be docked for the blocked field goal on Nugent’s sixth attempt.
The coverage units did a good job for the most part against the explosive Jacoby Jones, holding him to two punt returns for 2 yards. But they did let him get loose for a 47-yard kick return in the second quarter.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther came out smoking in their play-calling debuts as the Bengals looked great on both sides of the ball in the first half. But the Ravens made some solid adjustments to pretty much dominate the second half.
After blowing a 15-point lead to fall behind in the fourth quarter at a place where they hadn’t won since 2009, the Bengals could have slipped into a defeatist mindset. But Marvin Lewis and the rest of the staff deserve credit for keeping the team composed and confident.
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