Posted: 9:45 p.m.
For the 10th time in the last two seasons Sunday in Baltimore the Bengals rushed for less than 80 yards and for the seventh time they lost.
But with the just-as-stingy Titans coming to town this week, don't look for offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski to start going Air Force.
"We're not going to give up on the run," Bratkowski said Monday. "I think we're going to be a good running team by the time this thing is over with."
BratkowskiSaddled by the worst performance in his 114 games as the Bengals offensive coordinator, Bratkowski is confident he's got an offensive line that is physical enough to get a reeling offense on track.
And it will have to be Sunday because if you think Baltimore can stop the run, look what Tennessee just did to Jacksonville. The Jaguars, who finished second in NFL rushing last year, managed a miserly 33 yards on 1.9 per carry in Sunday's matching 17-10 loss.
"You can't pay lip service if you want to be a running team," Bratkowski said after 15 of the 65 rushing yards came on Carson Palmer scrambles. "You either are going to run the ball and stick with it, or not. But don't say you're going to be a physical running team because you can't do both. You have to stick with it.
"That's not to say we're not going to use our wide receivers and tight ends. But at the first sign of not being able to run it, we're not going to abandon it."
After an offseason head coach Marvin Lewis sounded the trumpet to run, Bratkowski stayed true on the two biggest calls of the game in the second half when his run plays were denied on fourth-and-two and fourth-and-one.
"One of them was probably a very questionable call on my part," Bratkowski said of the fourth-and-two shovel pass to Kenny Watson up the middle. "It's been a highly successful play for us, and on that one we disguised it by formation and it wasn't like they knew it was coming."
"But on the other one, we just got beat at the point of attack," he said of the fourth-and-one to Chris Perry.
As the Bengals digested their 154-yard effort Monday, there were a lot of years to get out of the way. If you guessed it was their fewest yards in a game since the Marvin Lewis-led Ravens defense held them to 94 in Bruce Coslet's last game as head coach Sept. 23, 2000, go to the head of the class.
Rex Ryan, the Ravens current defensive guru, was Lewis' defensive line coach then, and he had the Bengals talking to themselves Sunday and a good slice of Monday.
Part of Bratkowski's success has been how he has crafted pass protections against Ryan that have been virtually impenetrable compared to what the Ravens have done to the rest of the NFL, evidenced by the Bengals' skein of six wins against Baltimore in the last seven games that ended Sunday.
"We're a physical upfront team," Bratkowski said. "But they accomplished their mission ... they got us good. They took our edge off of us once we got a little flustered. Because of the oddities of their looks, our technique went downhill fast."
Bratkowski expected something like that from Ryan. The minute the schedule came out Bratkowski was shaking his head. Giving Ryan an entire offseason to come up with something new for Opening Day is like giving Chad Ocho Cinco another jersey.
The Bengals went through this the previous Opening Day and came out of it with a 27-20 win after figuring how to block nose tackle Haloti Ngata as a middle linebacker.
"But that's about all he did," Bratkowski said. "This time it was drastic."
WhitworthFrom what left guard Andrew Whitworth could see, the Ravens completely changed up their personnel on third down. What used to be linebackers were DBs. What used to be linemen were backers. There were times the Ravens had seven defensive backs out there.
"And they wouldn't have a guy like (linebacker) Bart Scott on the field and he may be their best player," Whitworth said. "I guess you could say they went with some smaller guys. But they just changed up what they've done."
Speaking for himself, tight end Ben Utecht said when he saw the different looks, "my technique went down the drain in a hurry."
Third down is exactly where Bratkowski is going right to work this week after the Bengals were a woeful two-of-13. As he always does, Bratkowski parceled out blame in protection, to the quarterback for not getting rid of it fast enough at times, to other times the receivers not running the right "hot" route against the blitz, to the backs not picking up the extra rushers, as well as the offensive line.
He agrees that the wide receivers, Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, weren't sharp getting open and that their absences from voluntary camps and training camp "didn't help."
But he said Houshmandzadeh's inability to corral Palmer's pass over the middle at the Baltimore 5 in a scoreless game on a play that resulted in an interception had nothing to do with rust.
"Ed Reed made a heck of a play," Bratkowski said of the Ravens Pro Bowl safety. "He got there the same time T.J. did, hit him, and the ball bounced off his shoulder pad. It was a good pass and good defense."
Palmer also uncorked the lowest passer rating (35) of his career but what mattered, Bratkowski felt, is that even though the Ravens had basically kicked the Bengals from Annapolis to Anne Arundel all day they still had a shot with seven minutes left.
That's not to say Bratkowski didn't find fault with some of Palmer's reads, but against one of the top defenses in the league on the road in the opener with a passing game not at full boil, hanging around late in the NFL means something.
"He kept us in it," Bratkowski said. "There were plenty of times he could have made bad decisions and forced plenty of balls, but he threw them out of bounds or where only we could get them. And in the (checks) in the run game, he was flawless."
And Bratkowski believes the Bengals were within a touchdown because they patiently stuck with the run. You can throw up to him that his gutsy fourth-and-one bomb to Ocho Cinco won the Carolina game in '06.
But you can also look at last year when the Bengals threw it 44 times against Pittsburgh and 37 times against Arizona when they let close games get away from them.
So expect more patience against the Titans. It won't be Rex Ryan, but Titans head coach Jeff Fisher played for Ryan's father Buddy in Chicago.
"Completely different, but it's still a great defense; a playoff defense," Bratkowski said. "They're going to stand toe-to-toe and hit you saying, 'This is where we're lining up man on man and let's go.' "
Bratkowski is counting on that physicality to come to the fore. He saw it in spurts in Baltimore when Perry got daylight twice and he saw other opportunities to crease the Ravens go by the boards because of blocks not sustained or one man blowing an assignment.
Yes, on his worst day as a Bengal, Bratkowski saw some daylight.
"Yeah," he said. "There some good things, but no one wants hear them right now. We've got to fix it."