NFL

W2L4: How Bengals Bounce Back vs. Ravens, A.J. Green Rules Jungle, Gio Bernard Returns As Announcer

Ravens (1-0) at Bengals (0-1) Sunday, Sept. 17 at Paycor Stadium (Field Turf), 1 p.m. ET, TV: CBS WKRC-TV Ch. 12 (Cincinnati) Andrew Catalon, Matt Ryan, Tiki Barber, AJ Ross. Radio: Dan Hoard, Dave Lapham. WEBN-FM (102.7 FM), ESPN1530, Sports USA Radio, Larry Kahn, Giovani Bernard

CINCINNATI — Two AFC North rivals who had distinctly different opening weekends to the NFL season meet Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens (1-0) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1).

The last time these two met, history was made when Sam Hubbard returned a Tyler Huntley fumble at the Bengals 1 98 yards for a tie-breaking touchdown and the Bengals survived, 24-17.

The Fumble In the Jungle was born.

As a matter of fact, the Ravens will become the first team in NFL history to play a road game against the same team three straight times. Conversely, the Bengals are the first team to play the same opponent three straight times at home. The Bengals prevailed, 27-16, in Week 18. The Bengals won the Wild Card. The Ravens played at home last week in the opener while the Bengals played on the road.

A.J. Green will return to Cincinnati and serve as “Ruler of the Jungle” before kickoff Sunday while another former Bengal – and Green teammate – Gio Bernard makes his broadcasting debut as the color analyst on the Sports USA Radio network broadcast of the game.

The Bengals face a second AFC North Division rival in as many weeks in their home opener. Cincinnati is looking to bounce back from a 24-3 defeat at Cleveland in Week 1.

Facing Myles Garrett and the intense Browns pass rush in the rain, Joe Burrow and the Bengals could never get the offense in gear, recording just 142 yards of net offense, including 67 net passing yards.

Burrow finished 14-of-31 for just 82 yards and was held to a 52.2 passer rating.

“Nobody is panicking in here,” said Burrow. “Week 1 doesn’t define anybody’s season. Obviously, (we were) not very good out there. Anybody that watched saw that. But we’ve been in this spot before, we’ve come back stronger and had a great year, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Bengals are trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s 0-2 start before winning 12-of-14 to end the regular season and capture their second straight AFC North title. The Bengals also started 0-3 in the division before turning things around.

There were bright spots for Cincinnati on defense as linebacker Germaine Pratt had 11 tackles, including a seven-yard sack, and forced a fumble in the opening quarter.

That fumble was recovered by cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, who played 43 snaps in his first game since a season-ending ACL knee injury last Halloween on the same Cleveland field.

Second-year safety Dax Hill intercepted picked off Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and returned it 20 yards in the third quarter for his first career interception.

“I thought the defense as a whole certainly gave us enough,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “We didn’t do anything to take the pressure off of them. They really held up in some bad field position situations. They continued to make stop after stop, gave up three points there for a long time.”

The Ravens beat the visiting Texans, 25-9, in their home opener, sacking the quarterback five times and holding Houston to just 268 total yards.

Linebacker Roquan Smith led Baltimore with a game-high 16 tackles, including a sack, while fellow linebacker Patrick Queen recorded 11 tackles and a sack.

On offense, the Ravens scored three rushing touchdowns, two from Justice Hill – brother of Cincinnati safety Dax Hill – and another from J.K. Dobbins. But the game was costly for Dobbins and the Ravens as he suffered a torn Achilles and is out for the season.

Ravens rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers caught nine passes for 78 yards in his NFL debut.

“There’s a myriad of things that go into playing a football game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “(Whether) that’s operating offensively, defensively and special teams, it’s a lot of moving parts. We have to get the parts moving more in sync, and it’s early in the season. It’s not unexpected, but I promise you, we want to be chasing perfection.”

The Bengals are hoping to get edge rusher Joseph Ossai back from a right ankle sprain suffered in the final preseason game while Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (quad) and CB Marlon Humphrey (foot) missed the Week 1 win.

In addition to losing J.K. Dobbins for the season, Baltimore is nursing injuries to safety Marcus Williams (pectoral), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle), all of whom were injured against Houston and didn’t return.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Quarterback:
  • How does Joe Burrow bounce back after the worst statistical performance of his career. He was 14-of-31 for 82 yards. The rain impacted the offense in Cleveland, no question. But so did a lack of rhythm between the QB and his star receivers. Burrow had three completions of 10 or more yards the entire day, including a 12-yarder to Ja’Marr Chase on the opening drive for one of two third-down conversions on the day.

  • Bengals defensive line vs. Ravens offensive line.:
  • The Bengals deep and talented defensive line needs to dominate this battle all day. This is non-negotiable. The Ravens have ruled out starting center Tyler Linderbaum and starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Patrick Mekari will fill in for Stanley and Sam Mustipher fills in for Linderbaum. Will Joseph Ossai return from his right ankle sprain suffered in the preseason finale? He practiced all week. So there is that chance. Cam Sample was impressive last week against Cleveland so the Ossai would just bring more pressure to an already formidable group.

  • Tee Higgins:
  • This should be the game to get Tee Higgins back on track. The Ravens are without starting corner Marlon Humphrey and starting safety Marcus Williams. Higgins was 0-for-8 on targets last week and Ja’Marr Chase should have more than 39 yards receiving.

  • Chase Brown watch:
  • If Chris Evans can’t go or is limited in the game with a right hamstring issue, then rookie Chase Brown could make his NFL debut. The ground attack would rely heavily on Joe Mixon and Trayveon Williams. However, this is the off chance Brown could get a rep or two, in addition to his special teams duty.

  • Punter:
  • Brad Robbins missed on one chance to pin the Browns inside the 10 on Sunday. But he also had punts of 54 and 50 yards. Darrin Simmons has been pushing him in practice this week to work on details. That should pay off this week.

  • Lamar Jackson:
  • In the only game the Bengals saw him in 2022, Jackson was kept in check until the final drive. Jackson scrambled three times for 26 yards to set up the game-winning 43-yard Justin Tucker field goal giving the Ravens a 19-17 win in Week 5. Jackson, with new coordinator Todd Monken, look to throw the ball more, with Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman. The Bengals secondary should be up to the task.

  • Bottom Line:
  • Rain or shine, the Bengals need to get their offense back in gear and that starts with Joe Burrow. History says they will, as they have lost back-to-back games just three times dating back to the start of the 2021 season. The Bengals should be able to take advantage of a depleted Baltimore secondary and a banged up Ravens offensive line. Bengals killer Mark Andrews is questionable and could be limited with a quadricep.

    Bengals 27, Ravens 19

    Mike Petraglia

    Joined CLNS Media in 2017. Covered Boston sports as a radio broadcaster, reporter, columnist and TV and video talent since 1993. Covered Boston Red Sox for MLB.com from 2000-2007 and the New England Patriots for ESPN Radio, WBZ-AM, SiriusXM, WEEI, WEEI.com and CLNS since 1993. Featured columnist for the Boston Celtics on CelticsBlog.

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