The Cincinnati Bengals changed quarterbacks, but the result was no different in rookie Ryan Finley’s debut.
Finley, who replaced benched veteran Andy Dalton during the bye last week, had two costly turnovers and simply couldn’t match an almost perfect day for Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens quickly built up a big lead on a struggling Bengals defense, and Cincinnati fell 49-13 on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium to remain winless. Here are five takeaways from the loss:
1. Losses getting worse
A late field goal by Randy Bullock saved the Bengals from their worst loss in franchise history, as their largest margin of defeat is just one point higher at 37 points. That has been done four times in 52 years, including a 51-14 loss to New Orleans last year.
»RELATED: Sunday’s boxscore
Sunday’s game did mark the first time they have ever allowed 49 points through three quarters, and had it not been for two defensive touchdowns for the Ravens, they likely would have totaled more yards of offense than the 379 with which they finished. The previous high score Cincinnati had allowed through three quarters was 38 points in a 51-45 loss to the Browns in 2007.
About the only positive was that the running game finally took a step forward. The Bengals out-rushed Baltimore 157-136, and Joe Mixon had a season-high 114 yards on 30 carries. It was his first time topping the 100-yard mark this year, but Mixon had a hard time being excited about it in a lopsided loss.
RELATED: Week 10 scoreboard
“To me, it burned,” Mixon said. “I hate losing, especially in that fashion. At the end of the day, you’ve got to take pride in what we do and you’ve just got to keep battling and going for it, but I thought the line did a great job today run-blocking. They stopped us to like 20-30 yards rushing last game and for us to have over 150, like I said, I thought they did a great job. We’ve just got to keep our heads up and keep pushing.”
2. Defense embarrassingly bad
The defense clearly didn’t get any better over the bye week, even though it got healthier with just one starter missing in cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Baltimore’s offense made it look like the Bengals actually got worse.
Cincinnati didn’t stop the Baltimore offense on any full drives until the fourth quarter when Jessie Bates intercepted backup quarterback Robert Griffin III with 8:11 left and the Bengals already trailing 49-10. Even that lone turnover for the Cincinnati defense was a gift, though, as Griffin simply made a bad throw.
Baltimore punted just once and scored on its first three possessions and five of the first six – the only missed opportunity in that stretch coming during a 23-second drive to end the first half. The Bengals also only got one sack Sunday, as Nick Vigil got to Griffin on the Ravens’ final drive before their lone punt.
3. Jackson made it look easy
Lamar Jackson has hurt the Bengals with his legs in two previous starts against them, but Sunday it was his passing game and running ability that caused problems.
The second-year starter completed his first 10 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns and finished with 223 yards and three touchdowns on 15-of-17 passing, which marked a franchise record completion percentage of 88.2. He achieved his second perfect passer rating (158.3) of the season and added 65 yards rushing, out-pacing the entire Bengals offense himself before he was replaced by Griffin in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati had 277 yards at the time Jackson left the game, and he totaled 288 yards.
Jackson’s arm was the most impressive aspect of his game until midway through the third quarter when he danced around the Bengals defense with a spin move that helped him avoid three potential tacklers en route to a 47-yard touchdown run. That extended Baltimore’s lead to 35-10, and then Cincinnati turned the ball over on a fourth down from its own 33 to set up Jackson’s third touchdown pass.
“You’ve just got to be 100 percent disciplined and when you are, he’s still No. 8, going to make a play,” said defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who missed the first chance to tackle Jackson on his long touchdown run. “He’s second to none in open field and he’s going to make guys miss.”
4. Finley’s forgettable debut
Rookie Ryan Finley would’ve needed to perfect to outshine Jackson, but his NFL debut turned out to be less than stellar.
The fourth-round draft pick got off to a slow start and just when he seemed to be settling in, he made a bad pass that Marcus Peters easily jumped in front for a pick-6. He returned the interception 89 yards untouched to make it 28-3 with 3:42 left in the second quarter.
Finley also lost a fumble on a sack, which Tyus Bowser returned 33 yards for a touchdown to finish the scoring for the Ravens with 2:14 left in the third quarter. Finley completed 16 of 30 passes for 167 yards and one touchdown to Tyler Eifert and one interception. He was sacked twice but added 22 yards rushing on five carries.
“I’ve already erased the score,” Finley said. “There’s a ton to work on. This team’s not going to give up, and I’m sure as heck not going to let anybody give up. I’m ready to fight, and I’m ready to compete. I think our whole offense is ready to do that. We’re going to bounce back.”
Coach Zac Taylor still saw some positives in how Finley managed the game and decisions he made. He said the turnovers were things Finley will learn from.
5. Effort coming into question
With an 0-9 record and the scores becoming more lopsided, the players’ effort is coming into question, but Taylor still insists the group remains locked into what they are trying to do.
He noted, specifically speaking about the defense, that players are still “responding the right way” even after a tough loss.
“You feel it in the locker room, to be quite honest, and you meet with enough players one-on-one,” Taylor said when asked how he knows he hasn’t lost command of the team. “I feel like we do have a good pulse for the team. I think it’s fair to speculate when you’re 0-9 that they would be heading in that direction, and I see no signs of that. I think we see in these games that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and not giving ourselves the best opportunities, but we still have players and coaches that believe in what we’re doing. It will come at some point.”
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