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Ryan Finley era gets off to rough start for Bengals

CINCINNATI -- The evaluation of rookie Ryan Finley as the Cincinnati Bengals' franchise quarterback got off to a rocky start on Sunday.

Finley had some good moments but also had two turnovers that were returned for points as the Bengals were walloped by the Baltimore Ravens 49-13. In his debut as Cincinnati's starting quarterback, Finley, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State, completed 16 of 30 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

When Bengals first-year coach Zac Taylor made the switch from veteran Andy Dalton to Finley, the move was partially made to figure out what they have in Finley ahead of the 2020 draft. After Sunday's loss, the 0-9 Bengals remain the lone winless team in the NFL and should be in contention for one of the top selections in the April draft.

Finley isn't competing against anyone on Cincinnati's roster to be Dalton's successor as the Bengals' top quarterback. He will likely have to fend off Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa or LSU's Joe Burrow, two potential options who could be on the board when the Bengals make their first pick.

Finley's first start came hours after Burrow and Tagovailoa went throw-for-throw in LSU's 46-41 victory over Alabama. Burrow, an Ohio native, was 31-of-39 passing for 393 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' first win over Alabama since 2011.

Finley showed some elusiveness under pressure and made timely throws as he moved the Bengals' offense into Baltimore territory on multiple occasions. But Finley also was intercepted by Marcus Peters, who returned it for an 89-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Finley also coughed up a fumble that was scooped up by Tyus Bowser and returned for a 20-yard score in the third quarter.

Looking good against the AFC North leaders was always going to be a tough task for Finley, especially given the Bengals' current state. Cincinnati has struggled to defend the pass rush all season, and two of their top wide receivers, A.J. Green and John Ross, are out with injury.

Because Taylor and the Bengals made the switch early, Finley will have more opportunities to prove he should be the starter in 2020 and beyond. But to do that, he has to have better performances than Sunday's outing against the Ravens.

Biggest hole in the game plan: As much as Lamar Jackson torched the Bengals' defense, the Ravens used tight ends in their aerial attack. Of the Baltimore quarterback's 17 targets, 13 of them went to a tight end. Mark Andrews caught six of his seven targets for 53 yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn't just Andrews. Nick Boyle caught all four targets for 78 yards. Even Hayden Hurst notched two catches for 20 yards.

Silver lining: Running back Joe Mixon cleared the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time since 2018. Mixon had a career-high 30 carries for 114 yards, with a decent chunk of that coming as the Bengals tried to bleed the clock in the fourth quarter. But even at the beginning of the game, Mixon was effective and found small openings to pick up modest gains. It's a bright spot for a Bengals rushing offense that entered Week 10 as the worst in the NFL.

Eye-popping Next Gen stat: The Bengals were credited with only three pressures, according to NFL Next Gen. Jackson's only throw under duress was a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown.