A disastrous start, the loss of defensive leader C.J. Mosley, several critical penalties and inconsistent play from quarterback Joe Flacco all played a part as the Ravens dropped a 34-23 decision at the Cincinnati Bengals Sept. 13.
The loss pretty much erased the euphoria that had been generated by the Ravens' 47-3,
of the Bills and exposed several areas of concern that need to be addressed if the Ravens want to contend in the AFC North.
Here are five quick takeaways after the game, which evens the Ravens record at 1-1 heading into a mini bye weekend. They return to action at home against the Denver Broncos Sept. 23.
1. The Bengals won this game in the trenches.
The Bengals dominated up front on both sides of the ball. Their defensive front four gave the Ravens fits all night. Whether it was off the right edge against Ronnie Stanley, off the left edge against James Hurst, or up the gut against Alex Lewis, Matt Skura and Marshal Yanda, the Bengals' front four was disruptive, generating pressure and causing an interception when Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap hit Flacco's arm just as he threw the ball.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals' offensive line gave quarterback Andy Dalton all the protection he needed. After sacking Bills quarterbacks six times last week, the Ravens hardly got to Dalton at all. And the Bengals were effective running the ball, too, with Joe Mixon (21 carries for 84 yards) and Giovani Bernard (6-27) averaging better than 4 yards a carry.
The big guys up front didn't score the points, but they had a big hand in the Bengals win.
2. The Ravens missed top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but without a pass rush, it might not have mattered.
With Smith serving the second game of a four-game suspension, the Ravens' secondary was victimized for four first-half touchdown passes, including three to receiver A.J. Green. Twice, the Bengals got Green on a matchup with slot corner Tavon Young, and Green beat him for scores. Green also caught a touchdown pass when matched up against cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
But after a strong training camp from the Ravens' edge rushers -- led by Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon and the emerging Tim Williams -- that group was hardly heard from in Cincinnati. Dalton was not sacked at all, and he usually had all the time he needed to work over the Ravens' secondary. If he wasn't finding Green, he was finding receiver Tyler Boyd, or one of his tight ends over the middle.
Without a doubt, the Ravens missed Smith. But they also missed a pass rush, which generally makes all defensive backs better.
3. A serious injury to C.J. Mosley would be a crippling blow.
Mosley left in the first quarter with a knee injury the Ravens later described as a bone bruise. The Ravens have to hope Mosley's absence will not be a lengthy one. Not only is the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker the quarterback of the defense, but inside linebacker is the Ravens thinnest position. In Mosley's absence, the Bengals attacked the middle of the field, and the Ravens can expect more of that.
Rookie linebacker Kenny Young stepped in for Mosley and played alongside Patrick Onwuasor, finishing with seven tackles. Young again showed his quickness and might have been the Ravens' best defensive player.
But losing Mosley, who has missed just two games in his career, for any extensive stretch would be a major loss.
4. Early on, this looked too much like the Joe Flacco of the past few years.
The Ravens' second possession ended with Flacco throwing a flat-footed interception that sailed on receiver Michael Crabtree, who was well covered anyway. It didn't seem a good read or wise decision. Later, Flacco short-hopped a fourth-down pass intended for receiver Willie Snead, and he had another back-foot throw that should have been an interception dropped by Bengals defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick.
After looking healthy, decisive and strong through training camp and in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, Flacco resembled the struggling Flacco of recent years as the Ravens fell behind 21-0 in the first half. Pressure had a lot to do with it, but Flacco never looked to be in any rhythm in a stadium where he has historically struggled. Flacco finished 32-for-55 for 376 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and a passer rating of 76.0.
5. It's Week 2. There's no need to panic.
Paul Brown Stadium has rarely been kind to the Ravens, who have lost six of their past seven in Cincinnati. Plenty of times in past years they have made the playoffs with a loss at Cincinnati on their resume. There are 14 games left, and they'll get another crack at the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium Nov. 18.
Mosley's injury, as well as the way the Ravens were dominated up front, should be more concerning than a 1-1 record after two games.
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