Bengals match worst opening loss ever
The Bengals saw it as a chance to show a national audience that they are ready to take a place among the AFC North's elites.
Uh-uh. Not even close. Not for now, anyway.
The Bengals were shredded in just about every way Monday night during a 44-13 loss in Baltimore that matched the worst opening-game defeat in franchise history. Joe Flacco threw for 299 yards in little more than three quarters, and the Ravens piled up yards with one big play after another.
Stunning stat: Baltimore ran 58 plays and 20 of them went for at least 10 yards.
''It was opening night, we were on national TV and we laid an egg,'' running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis said.
That egg was pretty scrambled, too.
The Bengals (0-1) were ready for the Ravens' no-huddle offense, prepared to see a lot of deep throws, expecting Ray Rice to get the ball when Baltimore needed a big play. They saw it all coming and couldn't stop any of it.
''There were no busted coverages or anything like that that I can remember,'' cornerback Leon Hall said. ''We just got outplayed.''
It was especially troubling for a team that thought it was ready to take the next step.
Cincinnati was one of three AFC North teams to reach the playoffs last season, going 9-7 en route to a wild card berth. The Bengals did it in part because of their favorable schedule - they went 0-7 against other playoff teams during the season, then lost to Houston in the first round of the playoffs.
The opener against Baltimore was a chance to see if they'd made any progress that way.
They were staggered on the opening play, a 52-yard completion to Torrey Smith. Flacco also had a 34-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. In all, the Ravens had four plays that went for 20 or more yards.
The worst part? Baltimore did nothing unexpected. The Ravens piled up 430 yards overall even though they went soft with a big lead in the fourth quarter.
''It's not like new math or anything,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ''Those were things we expected to see.''
It turned into one of the worst debuts in franchise history. The Bengals also lost an opener by 31 points in 1991, a 45-14 defeat in Denver.
''Plain and simple, we got beat in all phases of the game,'' middle linebacker Rey Maualuga said. ''There's no way else to put it. We just flat-out got beat and they took advantage of our mistakes, our turnovers, penalties. It's just something that we have to learn from.''
The defense wasn't the only issue. An offensive line that's already lost two starters to injury had trouble protecting Andy Dalton, who was sacked four times, fumbled once and threw an interception under pressure that Ed Reed returned 34 yards for a touchdown.
Left guard Travelle Wharton tore up a knee during the preseason. Center Kyle Cook severely hurt his right ankle during the last preseason game, prompting the Bengals to sign free agent Jeff Faine, who hadn't been with a team since March. Rookie Kevin Zeitler is starting at right guard.
The Bengals expect to be much better on offense this season, now that Dalton and receiver A.J. Green have a year of NFL experience and the entire unit has had a whole season learning coordinator Jay Gruden's West Coast offense.
There were a couple of hopeful signs. Green-Ellis, signed as a free agent to diversify the running game, carried 18 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Andrew Hawkins and Armon Binns provided a good complement to Green - Hawkins had eight catches for 86 yards, Binns four catches for 28.
But just like last season, when the Bengals had a chance to make a play and get that breakthrough win, they couldn't do it.
''I don't think of it like a thud,'' said Green, who had five catches for 70 yards. ''It wasn't consistent enough on offense, and that's the biggest thing when you're playing a veteran team like the Ravens.''
They get a chance to fix a lot of things in the next few weeks, with the schedule loaded up with teams starting young quarterbacks. They play their home opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (0-1), followed by games at Washington and Jacksonville, home against Miami and on the road against the Browns again.
''Let's get this out of the way and just get back to working,'' Green said.
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