- By Jay Morrison Staff Writer
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis stopped just short of calling Sunday’s 20-0 loss to Baltimore in the season opener the most disappointing of his career.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been…,” he said before stopping himself. “It was a disappointing football game.”
Here are five things to know about what went wrong in the team’s first home opener since 2009.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton tied his career high with four interceptions. The only other time it happened also was against the Ravens in a 34-17 loss in the 2013 season finale.
Dalton, who got sacked five times, completed 16 of 31 passes for 170 yards. His 28.4 passer rating is the second-lowest of his career next to the 2.0 he posted in a 24-3 home loss to Cleveland in 2014.
›› VIDEO: Dalton talks about disastrous day
In addition to the interceptions, Dalton also lost a fumble. It was the first time in Dalton’s career the Bengals have had five turnovers. The last time it happened was 2010 in a 23-17 loss at Indianapolis.
The Bengals defense responded to Dalton’s first two interceptions with back-to-back three and outs. But the Ravens cashed in his third one – a ball tipped high in the air and picked off at the Bengals 3 with 90 seconds left before halftime – for a touchdown that upped their lead to 17-0.
What Baltimore did after the Dalton fumble might have been even more damaging. The Ravens went 81 yards in 18 plays to up their lead to 20-0 with 1:06 left in the third quarter. The drive took 9:38 off the clock and didn’t include a single completion by Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco (0 for 2).
Flacco threw two other incompletions on third downs that were wiped out by Bengals penalties, with both resulting first downs – pass interference on William Jackson and defensive holding on Nick Vigil.
Plethora of penalties
While some of the woes that plagued the Bengals last year arose again in the opener – a leaky offensive line and red-zone woes – one of the strengths in 2016 was a contributing factor in Sunday’s loss.
The Bengals, who tied for the second fewest penalties (88) in the league in 2016, committed nine for 66 yards against the Ravens.
While an increase might be expected in 2017 given that the Bengals have gone from the 10th oldest team in the league to the third youngest, it was primarily veterans drawing the flags. It started with Brandon LaFell, the oldest player on offense, getting whistled for a false start on the first offensive snap of the game.
Then Pat Sims, the oldest player on defense, jumped offsides on the second defensive snap of the game.
Sunday marked the second time in the 50-season history of the Bengals they have been shutout in a season opener. The first came in 10-0 loss at Denver in 1979.
It also marked the first time the team has been shut out at home in the Marvin Lewis era. The last time the Bengals got blanked at Paul Brown Stadium was 2001 in a 24-0 loss to the Chicago Bears. The only other home shutouts in franchise history came in 1998 (35-0 to Tampa Bay), 1987 (34-0 to Cleveland), 1980 (14-0 to Buffalo) and 1968 (34-0 to Oakland).
The 20-point margin of defeat is tied for the fourth most in a season opener, behind 31-point drubbings by Baltimore in 2012 and Denver in 1991 and a 28-point home loss to San Diego in 2002.
One of the lone bright spots, and certainly the only one on offense, was running back Giovani Bernard, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his first game back from ACL surgery.
Bernard, who tore his ACL Nov. 20 against Buffalo and had just four carries in the preseason, carried seven times for 40 yards and caught one pass for 39 yards.
The 39-yard catch was the longest pass play of the game for Bengals, and his 23-yard rush in the second quarter was the team’s longest run.
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