Bengals Report Card vs. Ravens

Rushing Offense: C+

Running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for only 70 yards on 26 carries (2.7 per) and their longest run of the day was 8 yards. But the offensive line created space when it had to in the red zone, with all three of the team’s touchdowns coming on 1-yard runs. And wide receiver Mohamed Sanu gave the team total a boost with a 26-yard reverse as part of his two carries. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson won’t be happy with the 3.3-yard team average, but the Ravens ranked seventh in the league against the run coming into the game.

Passing Offense: B+

Andy Dalton completed 75 percent of his passes (21 for 28) for 266 yards without much help from a running game that struggled to keep the Baltimore defense honest. Dalton was 16 of 21 for 175 yards and a 113.7 passer rating when pressured, and an impressive 6 of 9 for 151 yards and a 109.7 rating when he was blitzed. The grade gets docked for back-to-back turnovers in the fourth quarter that could have been lethal. Mohamed Sanu had a pass ripped out of his hands that ended up counting as an interception on Dalton’s tally, and Dalton lost a fumble while being sacked to set up the Ravens’ go-ahead touchdown. They were huge mistakes that could have sent the season heading in another direction had Dalton and the offense rallied with a game-winning drive fueled by a 53-yard completion to Sanu.

Rushing Defense: A-

Grading on the merits of the game alone, the mark might have been a little lower. But when you look at it through a wider lens, it becomes more impressive. Baltimore running back Justin Forsett had been dynamic in his last few games and what the Bengals defense had been, well, not. They had given up 171.8 yards on the ground their last four games, so 107 was a huge step forward. The biggest knock against the run defense came in the fourth quarter when Baltimore got a game-changing fumble return to the 8. Holding the Ravens to a field goal would have been huge, but instead the Bengals allowed Lorenzo Taliaferro to go 8 yards untouched for a go-ahead touchdown. The production also was pitiful on Forsett’s two-point conversion in the third quarter.

Passing Defense: A

Oh, what this grade would have looked like had it not been for a little yellow flag in the final seconds. An 80-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith in the final seconds would have produced one of the most gut-wrenching losses in franchise history and probably would have docked an otherwise tremendous effort into the D range. But there’s no sense grading on hypotheticals. The referee called offensive pass interference on Smith, and other than that play, the Bengals did a great job against Flacco, holding him to 17 of 34 passing for 195 yards with two interceptions and a passer rating of 43.1, his lowest number since 2011. The Ravens thrive on the deep on the ball, and the Bengals limited their longest reception to 21 yards. Plus the Emmanuel Lamur and Adam Jones interceptions gave the offense two short fields that they converted into 10 points.

Special Teams: A

Punter Kevin Huber averaged 52 yards per attempt with a net of 46.3 thanks to some solid work from the coverage unit. Huber’s longest punt of the day (55 yards) came when he was kicking out of his own end zone, and late in the game against an all-out, 11-man rush, he got of a 49-yarder that went out of bounds at the Baltimore 6. Mike Nugent finally got to shake off his overtime miss against Carolina (he didn’t attempt a single kick last week because of the shutout in Indianapolis) and went 2 for 2 on field goal attempts. And Adam Jones had a couple of hold-your-breath kick returns. While he didn’t break any, he averaged a solid 31-yards on his three attempts.

Coaching: B+

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther deserves a lot of credit for rallying a group that had been awful the last three games. His defense held the NFL’s No. 7 offense to 294 total yards while forcing two turnovers. He kept a decent, but not dangerous, amount of pressure of Joe Flacco all day. And offensive coordinator Hue Jackson made good on his word to be more stubborn with his play calling even when the running game isn’t working. It wasn’t going anywhere Sunday, but Jackson stuck with it enough to keep give the defense some needed rest while also preventing the Baltimore defense from getting too aggressive with its blitzes.

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