CINCINNATI — Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson tossed a pair of touchdown passes while Gus Edwards romped in for a touchdown run, as the Ravens spoiled the home opener for Cincinnati and defeated the Bengals 27-24 on Sunday at Paycor Stadium.
The Bengals are 0-2 for the second straight season, while AFC North rival Baltimore is 2-0.
“The beauty of this team is we know it’s a 17-game season,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said, after the game. “There’s no overreaction on our end. We have to be prepared for stuff outside our lockerroom, which is natural. We’re in a very difficult division. We would have loved to come out 2-0; 1-1 would have been fine too. This is exactly where we were last year, and this team is only going to get better with every game that passes.”
Jackson completed 24 of 33 passes for 237 yards in the air, and added 54 on the ground.
“To my eye, he played really well,” Taylor added about Jackson. “He’s very difficult to contain.”
Cincinnati signal-caller Joe Burrow, coming off a horrendous Week 1 at Cleveland where he threw for a career-low 82 yards, finished the game with 222 yards — and completed 27 of 41 passes with two touchdowns and one interception.
He did appear to re-injure his calf towards the end of the game.
“Tweaked it a little bit again,” Burrow said about his calf. “We’re going to have to wait and see. I’m not sure how it’s going to feel the next couple of days. It’s pretty sore right now, but no telling how it’s going to feel, so I think we’re going to take it day by day.”
Burrow did connect with Tee Higgins for a four-yard TD pass on a 3rd-down-and-goal with 3:28 left to cut the lead to 27-24, but that was as close as the Bengals would get.
Baltimore ran out the clock on its next possession.
Last week, Higgins was shut out for catches and yards — but finished the day on Sunday with 89 yards on eight catches with two touchdowns.
“Me and Tee are always on the same page,” Burrow said. “You’re going to have bad games like last week –that’s going to happen in the league. It’s all about how you respond to them. We didn’t win the game today, but we build momentum and we’ve got to build on that.”
The Ravens set the tone early in the game, taking the opening drive 75 yards on 13 plays and eating up nearly eight minutes and claiming a 7-0 lead.
The Bengals tied the game when Charlie Jones returned a punt 81 yards with 13:14 to go in the second quarter.
Jones’ TD return was the franchise’s first on a punt since Sept. 16, 2012 — when Adam Jones returned a punt for a touchdown.
Baltimore’s Justin Tucker connected on two field goals, while Cincinnati’s Evan McPherson booted one from 27 yards to close the gap to 13-10 at the half.
Cincinnati posted only 63 yards of total offense in the first two quarters.
“I know that stats in the first half are what everybody looks at and they weren’t great,” Burrow acknowledged. “But like I said, the first two possessions we had that holding call, I have to watch the film to see if I think it’s holding, I don’t know. Then we had the third down that we didn’t convert and then we moved the ball really well on the third possession, so I think we did some things good in that first half too, obviously stats weren’t great, but second half, I thought we were rolling.”
The Bengals drove the ball down the field on the opening drive of the third quarter, but Burrow was picked off at the goal line by Geno Stone.
The Ravens scored four plays later — when Mark Andrews caught a three-yard TD pass from Jackson.
“A really good play by him,” Burrow said about Stone’s pick. “Good disguise. But I’ve got to see that.”
Cincinnati countered and put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended by Burrow finding Higgins on a three-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 20-17.
But the Ravens answered with a 12-play, 75-yard drive — that featured a Jackson to Nelson Agholor 17-yard TD pass with 11:38 remaining.
“Stay patient with us,” Taylor said when asked what he wanted to say to the Cincinnati fans. “I know that’s hard to say and listen to. They want wins, there’s a lot of excitement going into this season. We have a lot of excitement, and we still do. It’s Sep. 17, and we plan on this being a long season. We’ll be excited to make corrections, put this one behind us, and have an electric Monday Night Football crowd as we’ve had here.”
The Bengals host the Los Angeles Rams on MNF on Monday, Sept. 25.