BALTIMORE -- The mission for first-year Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has never been clearer.
After another rough offensive outing in Cincinnati’s 23-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Taylor has to figure out why his offense has struggled to score during the winless start to the season. For the third straight week, Cincinnati failed to score an offensive touchdown in the first three quarters. Brandon Wilson’s 92-yard kickoff return at the start of the game was the only time a Bengals player reached the end zone until a late touchdown that mattered only to bettors.
Fair or not, Taylor was expected to bring innovation and creativity to Cincinnati after he spent two seasons as an assistant under Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. That hasn’t happened, as the Bengals have sputtered to their worst start since 2008.
The lack of playmakers at Taylor’s disposal, especially with wide receiver A.J. Green still out with an ankle injury, was apparent against Baltimore. There’s no question the roster needs to be improved in multiple areas for Cincinnati to be a playoff contender. But for now, Taylor has to maximize the players currently at his disposal as the Bengals remain one of three teams without a win this season.
Describe the game in two words: Painfully dull. Baltimore’s ability to do whatever it wanted with its rushing attack and Cincinnati’s inability to move the ball led to a very difficult game to watch.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Once again, the Bengals couldn’t stop an opponent on the ground. Baltimore piled up 269 rushing yards, becoming the third opponent to rush for at least 250 yards against Cincinnati. Quarterback Lamar Jackson had 152 of those. In the first half, Jackson had 106 yards before first contact, the most by any Ravens player in 10 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Jackson’s performance was one of the most statistically impressive in NFL history. He’s the only player to throw for 200 and rush for 150 in a regular-season game during the Super Bowl era.
QB Breakdown: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had another tough week. He was 21-of-39 passing for 235 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. For the second time this season, Dalton didn’t have any completions in the first quarter. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was the only other player who did that this season. Manning was eventually benched for rookie Daniel Jones. Dalton is without two of his top receivers, but he still made a couple of bad throws, including a first-half interception that killed a promising Cincinnati drive.
Silver lining: While the day was mostly an offensive disaster, wide receiver Auden Tate showed why the coaching staff has been high on him all season. Tate had five catches for a career-high 91 yards. He had a team-high 12 targets, as the offense relied on Tate often when the Bengals needed a big play. Tate’s athleticism and hands will make him a viable threat in the passing game the rest of the season.