With the 1988 Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their run to the Super Bowl, the 2018 Bengals honored them Thursday night with a 21-gun salute to open the game with three Andy Dalton-to-A.J. Green touchdown passes during the first 17 minutes that staked them to a 21-0 lead over the Ravens’ No. 1 defense on the way to a 28-14 halftime lead.
When Dalton continued the nod to nostalgia by running some plays out of the no huddle, he fired his fourth touchdown pass finding wide receiver Tyler Boyd isolated on inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor for 10-yarder that made it 28-7 with about three minutes left in the half. Green was a factor there, too. Boyd lined up slightly behind Green split to the left and when they crossed to begin their routes they got the matchup they wanted.
All of Green’s catches in the half went for touchdowns covering a total of 43 yards.
But the Bengals blew a golden chance to run out the first half clock when they stuffed the Ravens on four downs with 1:29 left in the half. When they got the ball back they chose to throw three straight passes and when they were all incomplete they had to punt it away after having it for just 12 seconds.
And then for the 12th time in the last 18 games they allowed points in the final two minutes of the first half. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick dropped a Joe Flacco bomb all by himself in the middle of the field, was hit with a 30-yard pass interference penalty in the end zone for tugging the back of wide receiver John Brown’s jersey, and left end Carlos Dunlap missed a clean sack and allowed Flacco to throw a one-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews.
Still, it was a performance worthy of the ’88 champs even though they lost rookie center Billy Price with an ankle injury on the drive they went up 21-0.
That’s the drive Dalton exploited the blitz on his way to completing 14 of 25 passes for 178 yards and a passer rating of 118 in the half. With right tackle Bobby Hart holding Terrell Suggs sack-less in the half (nobody for the Ravens had a sack in the half), Hart did get called for a hold on running back Joe Mixon’s nine-yard run. Dalton overcame that by hitting Boyd for 17 yards running across the field.
Boyd, who had a monstrous half with five catches for 86 yards, got called for an illegal shift.
But with a chance to blow the Ravens to smithereens up 21-0 when Flacco had a third-and-15 after cornerback Darqueze Dennard blew up a potential reverse to running back Lamar Jackson that never got off the ground during an eight-yard loss, Flacco somehow got off a 45-yard ugly-looking fluttering bomb to wide receiver John Brown down the middle of the field.
Rookie safety Jessie Bates, who set up the first touchdown with his first NFL interception, should have had his second. Bates actually got his hand on the ball, but not enough of it.
When Dennard got called on a curious pass interference penalty on third down in the end zone, the Ravens cashed it to cut it to 21-7 with 8:20 left
They had plenty of help from their defense that sacked Flacco three times in the first quarter, one by rookie right end Sam Hubbard for his first NFL sack subbing for Michael Johnson when Johnson was lost for the game with a knee injury. Flacco finished the half 11 of 21 for 164 yards thanks to that ball to Brown.
When Flacco tried to lead wide receiver Michael Crabtree on the first snap of Baltimore’s second series but he led him too far and Bates came up with his first NFL interception at the Ravens 30 and he ran it back to the 16.
On third down tight end Tyler Eifert drew a pass interference call on safety Tony Jefferson in the end zone to bring the ball to the Baltimore 1. The Bengals rolled out the Jumbo package that produced Mixon’s one-yard touchdown run in Indy on Sunday with Jake Fisher the extra tackle and Hubbard the fullback.
But when Mixon saw nothing up the middle, he bounced it to the right but couldn’t turn the corner and got dumped for a three-yard loss by cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
On second down Dalton faked a run pitch to the left, rolled right and saw Green slanting inside cornerback Tavon Young from the left and running across the back of the end zone and he hit Green racing into the right corner for a 7-0 lead with 10:35 left on the four-yard pass.
They hooked up again four minutes in the face of the Ravens’ vaunted blitz when Dalton read a blitz by the middle backer on third-and-one. Suggs just missed bating it down as Dalton eyed Green slanting from the right. Green climbed the ladder and ripped the ball out of Austin’s hands, shrugged off his tackle and was gone for 32 yards. He bolted past Humphrey and safety Eric Weddle for his 60th career touchdown and the Bengals a 14-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game.