CINCINNATI (AP) — After rolling to two straight victories, the Cincinnati Bengals stumbled again and lost to the Baltimore Ravens because of a late field goal.
As in the two losses that started the season, the reigning AFC champs sputtered in the first half Sunday night, looked better in the second half, squandered opportunities and ended up losing 19-17 via a late field goal.
Cincinnati (2-3) blew its chance to take over first place in the AFC North. The Ravens are 3-2, the Browns 2-3 and the Steelers 1-4. The Bengals lost to Pittsburgh in Week 1.
“Frustrating, but there’s still a lot of football to be played,” quarterback Joe Burrow said. “We’re not going to panic. Obviously, 0-2 in the division is not ideal, but like I said, there’s a lot of football left to be played. Still going to go on a run here (on Sunday) before the bye (week), and we still have everything in front of us.”
Coach Zac Taylor hasn’t begun wringing his hands, either.
“We started finding a rhythm there with the run and pass really at the end of the second quarter, and all the way through the rest of the game. It was just too little, too late,” Taylor said.
Burrow again had trouble finding time to pass and went to mostly short, quick throws. He was 24 for 35 for 217 yards, with a touchdown and an interception that led to a Baltimore field goal in the third quarter. He was sacked twice.
Finally, the running game. RB Joe Mixon averaged 2.6 yards per carry in the first four games but on Sunday he had 5.6 per carry, a good bit of it after first contact. He picked up 44 of his 78 rushing yards in the second half as the offensive line got more push.
“I felt like we had an attitude to us today, and we wanted to run,” Mixon said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Getting started and building momentum. Cincinnati punted on its first four possessions of the game, until Burrow found tight end Hayden Hurst for a 19-yard TD pass with 4:24 left in the first half. … Play-calling was perplexing at times, particularly in a third-quarter series where the Bengals had first-and-goal on the Baltimore 2-yard line with the score tied at 10.
Here’s how it went: First down, an incomplete pass to Hurst; second down, double-reverse trick play resulting in a 12-yard loss; third down, Burrow passed to Chase to get back to the 2-yard line. Instead of kicking a short field goal or handing Mixon the ball on fourth down, the Bengals dialed up a shovel-pass attempt that fell incomplete — ball turned over on downs.
Hurst had six catches for a team-high 53 receiving yards and a touchdown. Hurst was signed as a free agent when C.J. Uzomah departed for the New York Jets and is becoming a nice target for Burrow, especially with Tee Higgins out.
“It doesn’t matter the situation,” Hurst said. “We’re going to get this thing rolling. We’ve got playmakers all over the place. There’s no panic in here. We’re going to get this thing figured out, we’re going to start putting up points.”
RT La’ El Collins, who has been bothered by a back injury, has struggled along with the rest of the starters on an O-line rebuilt after last year. Collins was one of three free agent offensive lineman signed to beef up the pass protection and run game, but the unit has been inconsistent.
Higgins (ankle) came out of Sunday’s game early and didn’t return. … OT Jonah Williams left the game with a knee injury in the first half but returned taped up and braced to play in the second half.
33 — yardage of longest pass play of the night for the Bengals, Burrow to backup receiver Michael Thomas. Ja’Marr Chase’s longest reception was 13 yards and Tyler Boyd’s was 18.
The Bengals need a quick start and better offensive line play at New Orleans (2-3) on Sunday. They return home to play Atlanta on Oct. 23. Cincinnati’s off week is Nov. 13.