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The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Five Thoughts vs. Bengals


Five thoughts on the Ravens' 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in their 2014 season opener Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:

Ravens Haven't Turned Page From 2013
After failing to make the playoffs last season, the Ravens spent the entire offseason making changes. They brought in a new offensive coordinator. They added new playmakers. They got younger. The goal was to make 2013 feel like a distant memory. But their first game of 2014 felt a lot like 2013. That's not a compliment. The offense experienced an early power outage marked by a rash of mistakes. The defense struggled to get off the field, yet fought hard and kept the score reasonably close. A late rally showed heart and gave the Ravens a chance to win, but the other team made a key play and won, deservedly so. It's a familiar narrative, one the Ravens didn't want to reprise. They've tried hard to put 2013 behind them, but this game won't convince anyone that they've turned the page.

Game Was Decided Before Green Touchdown
It's easy to say the game was decided late, when the Ravens briefly took their only lead in the fourth quarter, only to relinquish it two plays later on a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. But as devastating as that play was, the game was decided earlier, I thought, when the Ravens stumbled so badly through the first half that they found themselves 15 points down. The Bengals really took it to them, and the Ravens added to the hurt with dropped passes, a pair of turnovers and other mistakes including what quarterback Joe Flacco called "the stupidest play I ever made in football." (More on that below.) Yes, the Ravens did awaken in time to come back and take the lead, but their margin of error was so thin that everything had to go their way, and meanwhile, Green, an elite playmaker, had been ominously quiet. So he finally made a play, not the biggest shocker. But if the Ravens hadn't dug such a deep hole, they possibly could have absorbed a big play and survived. "You can't spot a good team 15 points," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

Don't Be Fooled By Final Offensive NumbersOnce Flacco and the offense woke up, they made enough plays that their final numbers looked good. They piled up 26 first downs to Cincinnati's 16. They ran 85 plays and gained 420 yards. Flacco threw for 329 yards, one of his bigger days. But don't be fooled. "It was a bad day," Flacco said. The receivers dropped a handful of passes. Jacoby Jones, who had an especially rough day, dropped one that would have produced points near the end of the first half, and added another in the second half. Steve Smith Sr. dropped one that killed momentum in the third quarter. "It was a frustrating day to be Joe Flacco," Smith said. But Flacco also contributed to the troubles. He was off target early, threw an interception and committed his stunning time management gaffe at the end of the first half, letting the clock run out when he should have thrown an incompletion in time for Justin Tucker to attempt a field goal. "I'm sure he'd like to have that one back," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

Honestly, Chykie Brown Played Well
I'm not entirely sure about this, but if you had told the Ravens going into the game that Chykie Brown would play the whole game at cornerback and Cincinnati's A.J. Green would make just one deep play, they might have taken that. Green, after all, is a Pro Bowl receiver, of the game's best, and Brown is a fourth-year player who made just his second career start Sunday when Lardarius Webb was scratched because of a back injury. Honestly, I thought Brown held up well, especially considering the Ravens' tepid pass rush produced zero sacks, putting even more pressure on the secondary. "I stayed confident. I had a pretty solid day," Brown said. He looked like a starting cornerback. But his one mistake was a big one. While the Ravens defense only let the Bengals into the end zone once, "we sure picked a hell of a time for it to happen," Suggs said.

Quick Hits
The Ravens benefitted early from strange play-calling by Hue Jackson, Cincinnati's offensive coordinator, who kept running keepers by Dalton on third downs, producing field goals instead of possible touchdowns … Jacoby Jones' rough day also included his decision to run the kickoff  out of the end zone after the Bengals re-took the lead late. He was nine yards deep and only made it out to the 12, putting the offense in tough position on a must-score possession. The right call was to take the touchback … Third cornerback Asa Jackson had never played a down of NFL defense until Sunday. His first game included five unassisted tackles and one pass defended, a nice debut ... Although the Ravens never sacked Dalton, their defensive interior was solid against the run. The Bengals averaged 3.0 yards on 26 carries … In case you weren't sure how Harbaugh feels about turnovers, Bernard Pierce never played another down after his fumble in the second quarter. Justin Forsett picked up the slack admirably with 70 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries.

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