Defense matters again in latest loss to Ravens


BALTIMORE _ There’s probably a stat that says if the Bengals aren’t the only team to suffer their first three losses of the season, all on field goals, it’s a small brotherhood.

“I’ve been playing for five years and every game has been like this,” said left wing Sam Hubbard, whose defense played brilliantly again in Sunday night’s 19-17 primetime loss to the Ravens.

That left the Bengals 2-3, 0-2 in the AFC North and looking for answers after losing again even though they didn’t let Lamar Jackson’s snap offense reach 20 points.

“We’ve already come out of holes,” Hubbard said.

The Bengals defense is yet to allow a second-half touchdown this season, so the Ravens have resorted to three field goals from Justin Tucker, the last a 43-yard arrow to the heart.

“I told them all the losses were on the last play and they’re going to start going our way,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “We know the recipe for our success is to start earlier and play ahead. We have to start earlier and it’s been a long season.”

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was immense last drive, swinging and weaving under the Ravens’ stubborn two-deep zone to lead the Bengals to 75 yards in 7:44, and tying the game at 16 on a yard shot with 1:58 left before Evan McPherson slipped in an extra point for the lead. The longest play of the drive was a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who called the deep zone mostly “quarterbacks.”

“It had to be that way. They took all of our shots away from us from deep,” Burrow said of the two drives that took more than 15 minutes combined for just seven points. “We have to make plays in the streak to win. All of those games are decided in the last half of the fourth quarter.

“It’s not ideal to be 0-2 in the division. But it’s been a long season. Our best football is ahead of us.”

EMPTY SET: The game was actually decided with 2:45 left in the third quarter and the Ravens leading, 13-10. The Bengals had a Baltimore 2 first down after holding the ball for 15 plays and eight minutes. They attempted two passes and two plays of gadgets, the last an incomplete spade pass.

“We felt good about our forfeits,” said Taylor, who thought they could put the game aside instead of tying it with a basket. “I thought we were going to go up 17-13 there and our defense is playing really well there, keeping them out of the end zone.”

Burrow was all-out on the fourth down.

“I think you have to go,” Burrow said. “If you get seven points, that really changes the game, so I think you have to go for it.”

The Bengals had two different approaches on the goal line. On the first, they attempted four passes. On the second, after wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s 13-yard catch got them to the 5, running back Joe Mixon ran for four and Burrow kept him down for the last.

“It’s part of the game plan,” Taylor said. “You set up against fronts, and you see what teams have done and why they’ve been successful. It wasn’t really because teams are running downhill. It was kind of getting stuff on the perimeter. We tried that, and it didn’t work for us. And it worked on one play once we got Joe [Mixon] downhill, then we slipped it to the next game.”

THE BELL IS RINGING AGAIN: How strong is Vonn Bell’s security playing? After his first career two-pick game against Miami, Bell turned that game around with a leaping grab from a Lamar Jackson knockdown on the sidelines at the Bengals 17 midway through the second quarter and Cincy down, 10-0. He set up the Bengals’ first touchdown and a 10-10 halftime draw.

“It was in the call,” Bell said. “We knew they were going to try to speed up safety, and I saw him throw the ball, and I made a play on the ball. So putting myself in the best position for the team to win, go ahead and make games for each other and go ahead and let loose.”

THIS IS MIXON: After getting next to nothing on the first four possessions of the game, when he had one yard on two carries, Mixon finished with his most yards since Game 1 (78 yards on 14 carries) and made a game-high of the season of 5.6 yards per carry.

“We were out there with this stuff,” Mixon said of the change. “Joey was throwing darts. You know, the catchers were making plays. When we do that, big plays happen.”

NO TEE: The Bengals suffered a huge loss when their hottest wide receiver, Tee Higgins (ankle) could only play a few early plays and was out the rest of the way. He stayed away hoping to get a snapshot of the situation, but he admitted: “We don’t want to make it worse.” Chase, whose longest catch was the final 13 yards, said he moved more with Higgins out.

QUICK RETURN: IIt was this close to a storybook night for former Ravens first-round pick Hayden Hurst. His 19-yard touchdown put the Bengals on the board.

“I try not to think about things too far in the future, but you know when we pulled up on the buses it was obviously kind of a weird feeling driving past the Ravens parking lot and coming here. “, said Hurst. “Really weird, you know, walking in there and being on the opposite sideline. But it was cool seeing all the other guys and all the coaches and stuff like that.”

Hurst, who scored three touchdowns in his first two years in the league with Baltimore, had six catches for 53 yards Sunday night. He never had six catches for the Ravens and had only 53 yards in 28 games.


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