Tyler Eifert had a field day dragging defenders through the Oakland A’s beautiful infield
Any Steelers or Bengals fans interested in writing for this AFC North section of SidelineReport? Please let us know, or your teams will feel the JH effect.
The Browns and Steelers games were already covered, which leaves the only two games from our SR AFC North predictions page with a majority opinion.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Oakland Raiders
Starting with the Bengals, they beat a team they were expected to beat, and did so in impressive fashion. Sure the Raiders were without David Carr midway through the 2nd quarter as Adam Pacman Jones yanked him down by the arm after an attempted stiff-arm went south. However, the Raiders did nothing offensively or defensively before that play. The result was a 33-0 game halfway through the 4th quarter, which ended like a week-4 preseason game in garbage-time.
Lowlights: Pacman Jones tried to takeout another Raider when he slammed Amari Cooper’s helmetless-head into said helmet while Cooper was on the ground. Apparently Jones will not be suspended for this Suh-like action, probably because Cooper was lucky and did not make the long list of injuries Pacman has caused on and off the field.
Highlights: Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert may finally be living up to his potential when Cincinnati took him with their first round and 21st overall pick in 2013. He ended with 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall, the Bengals looked solid against a team that was expected (by some) to take that next step and potentially get closer to .500 or even contend for a wild card. Neither seem like a reality after the Raiders laid an egg at home. That said, the Bengals came out strong after hearing months of negative comments stemming from the aftermath of both their 2014 stretch run and Andy Dalton’s performance in the Pro Bowl (not to mention the draft and free-agency). Consider this a positive step, and much needed if they want to get over the postseason hump.
Next up, the San Diego Chargers head to Cincinnati.
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos
To Ravens’ fans, Sunday’s Ravens Broncos game was like a combination of two haunting playoff games of the past. On January 2007, Baltimore hosted Payton Manning’s Indy squad, and their offensively challenged team lost without giving up a touchdown. On January 22nd 2012, The Ravens went to New England and had the game won in the hands of wide receiver Lee Evans, only to see him leave the ball outstretched and stationary, and was subsequently stripped from his hands.
Sunday afternoon, the Ravens once again kept a Peyton Manning led offense out of the endzone but couldn’t muster a single TD themselves. They also had not one, but TWO consecutive game winning touchdowns in their hands, only to see the ball either dropped or stripped. Steve Smith had the first try and dropped a ball that may or may not have been slightly tipped; and Crockett Gilmore was not aggressive enough, a la Lee Evans and had the ball stripped (and intercepted). An aggressive move to the left with the ball would likely have meant a TD, although not an easy play to execute. Its something Patriots ultra aggressive and competitive TE Rob Gronkowski most likely would have hauled-in.
Steve Smith – Smith played like he retired BEFORE the season. He wasn’t finishing many of his routes, had no separation, no concentration, let a catchable pass drop (if the ball was tipped, the ball barely moved), and let catchable punts drop. He ended the day with two catches on SEVEN targets for 13 receiving yards.
Other wide receivers – The remaining group totaled 4 catches for 32 yards and created zero separation from their defenders.
Offensive line – Perhaps left tackle Eugene Monroe aggravated a concussion during the game, because he played the opening drive like he was already concussed. He was slow to react while he was in, and his replacement Hurst was more of the same. The Bronco rush combination of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller (and others) were in the Ravens backfield seemingly every play as Ravens tackles on both sides of the line struggled for most of the 60 minutes.
Coaching staff – The initial offensive game plan obviously was working in the first half… and they didn’t appear to make much of an adjustment until the 4th quarter.
Joe Flacco – While most in the media put the blame on the offensive line, some has to go to Flacco. If the coaching staff isn’t going to call plays to give the Oline relief, Flacco has to step up and make quick throws, or adjust his protection and receiver route running accordingly. He also made a poor throw on the first interception even if his wide receive didn’t do him any favors.
Defensive front seven: – The Ravens pressured Manning for most of the day and held Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and solid running backs to four field goals (two over 55 yards) in 60 minutes. Even if Manning has lost arm strength, his overall ability from brain to arm is still better than at least 2/3 of NFL quarterbacks. The Ravens defensive unit also stuffed the run, giving up 2.8 yards per carry on 25 attempts.
Special teams: A lowlight during the preseason, both kicker and punter were spectacular, as was the coverage team. Sam Koch had a 45 yard NET average, and the coverage was not out kicked when he launched two 56+yard punts. Tucker was Tucker. Not much more to add than that.
Overall, it was a game the Ravens had an opportunity to win, but did not play well enough on offense to win, or even deserve to win. Next up, the Ravens fly to San Jose and practice there for the week before playing in Oakland.