The Ravens defense has talked about being “elite” this year.
In the regular-season finale in Cincinnati, it may face its hardest test yet.
The Bengals are absolutely loaded on offense, and will be looking for a much bigger offensive showing than in early November when they scored just 17 points against the Ravens, including seven on a desperation Hail Mary.
Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees was asked for what makes Cincinnati’s offensive scheme so difficult.
“It isn’t the scheme; it’s their personnel,” he said Thursday.
“They’ve got one of the best wide receivers in ball, they’ve got two excellent tight ends, two excellent backs, and I don’t know if anybody is watching, but those other wide receivers aren’t bad, either. The scheme is just a good scheme because they do the same thing all the time.”
Pees was then asked if Cincinnati’s personnel is the best the Ravens have faced this season.
“They could be the best. If not, they’re right there,” Pees said. “They and Detroit I thought were the two [best], and Denver is not bad, either.
“I really thought Detroit’s offense was pretty darn good, personnel-wise. They were a scary team, and I think I could compare the two of them very similarly – good tight ends, good running backs – couple of them – pretty good wide receivers out there.”
Good news for Ravens fans is that Baltimore held Detroit to 16 points and forced three turnovers. The Lions put up 349 yards of offense, but had trouble maintaining consistency against the Ravens defense.
Cincinnati’s offense doesn’t have elite statistics. It’s 10th overall in total offense (366.8 yards per game), and seventh in points per game (26.4). The 21st-ranked rush offense is the weakest point, averaging 109.6 yards per game.
But when you look at the skill players the Bengals have, there is a lot of explosiveness.
Wide receiver A.J. Green (fourth in receiving yards with 1,412) is having another Pro Bowl season. The Bengals have two big-time, pass-catching tight ends in Jermaine Gresham and rookie first-round pick Tyler Eifert. In his third year, quarterback Andy Dalton has already topped 4,000 passing yards.
Where the Bengals significantly upgraded this offseason is at running back with the choice of Giovanni Bernard in the second round. Bernard’s a game-breaker who just doesn’t have the stats (673 rushing yards, five touchdowns) mostly because veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the starter.
“When [Bernard] gets the ball out in open space, it’s like playing punt return – anything can happen,” Pees said. “Every time that he touches that ball, he can take it anywhere. BenJarvus is more of a downhill, knows the value of a yard, going to thump you. … [Bernard], it’s no holds barred.”