Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson showed why he's the most exciting NFL MVP candidate of this generation when he eclipsed Bengals rookie quarterback Ryan Finley's debut Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium in a breathtaking four-touchdown clinic that carried the day, 49-13.
While still possessing a perfect passer rating on his first possession of the second half that had built a 28-10 halftime lead, Jackson took off on one of his vintage option runs. With right end Carlos Dunlap trying to clamp down the inside and rookie middle linebacker Germaine Pratt blocked off his feet outside, Jackson scooted into the open field, where he spun out of the grasp of linebacker Nick Vigil with a triple axel to complete a 47-yard touchdown run.
Then he came back to complete the awards ceremony on the next series on third-and-eight. Bengals safety Shawn Williams blitzed and crunched Jackson as he threw it to wide receiver Marquise Brown breaking free working against safety Jessie Bates III for a 20-yard touchdown play for Jackson's third touchdown pass that made it 42-10 with 5:13 left in the third quarter. And Jackson was done for the day, replaced by Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter, still perfect at 158.3 on 15 of 17 for 223 yards to go with 65 yards rushing.
That was pretty tough for Finley to match when your opposite number is averaging a first down on every snap. He didn't help himself when he gave the Ravens two touchdowns, a pick-six in the first half and sack-strip for a fumble recovery return touchdown in the third quarter. That quarter summarized the Ravens' dominance on Sunday. They ran just seven plays, but had 97 yards and 14 points, including linebacker Tyus Bowser's 33-yard fumble recovery that was courtesy of fullback-tight end-defensive tackle Patrick Ricard bulling through the right interior of the line and drilling Finley.
Finley did get a blood-and-guts performance out of running back Joe Mixon, finally getting a career-high 30 carries and season-high 114 yards, the first Bengals back to get at least 30 carries since Cedric Benson nine years ago.
View the best images from the Bengals' Week 10 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens from Paul Brown Stadium.
With Finley seeing every blitz imaginable in that second half, Mixon took the air out. Finley had a good drive to open the second half, converting a 24-yarder over the middle to wide receiver Tyler Boyd. But on fourth-and-six, running back Giovani Bernard fumbled away a check-down pass and that set up Jackson's big run.
When they went for it again on fourth-and-two on the next drive from their own 33, the Bengals decided to go for it late, had to call a timeout, and Finley had good protection as the Ravens lined up a zero blitz, but he overthrew Boyd. In the face of the pressure, Finley finished 15 of 29 for 158 yards for a 65 passer rating.
In a matchup pitting an MVP candidate against a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, the Ravens cashed the odds when they broke to a 28-10 lead in Sunday's first half as Jackson hit his first ten passes and Finley got burned on cornerback Marcus Peters' 89-yard pick-six.
But Finley's six-yard touch pass to tight end Tyler Eifert blocking out cornerback Brandon Carr for his first NFL touchdown pass with 26 seconds left capped off a rather productive half for Finley. After a three-and-out on his first drive, the Bengals next three series had 10 plays and at least 57 yards with Finley hitting eight of 14 passes for a 68.8 passer rating compared to Jackson's perfect 158.3.
Thanks to Joe Mixon, Finley had his best drive of the day going, down 21-3. With the Bengals using rookie guard Michael Jordan frequently as a sixth offensive lineman, Mixon converted a fourth-and-one and then made a great 23-yard catch-and-run. Finley made a terrific pirouette move to get away from defensive tackle Zach Seiler, whom nearly beat the shot-gun snap to him. Finley gunned it to the sideline, where Mixon screwed linebacker Patrick Onwuasor into the ground with a hellacious cut.
The Bengals did a nice job running the ball, particularly inside, and Bernard picked up 10 yards on the next two carries before leaving with a knee injury. But Finley will forever remember his second career red-zone snap. With head coach Zac Taylor trying to get a timeout and Finley checking to a pass, he locked on to wide receiver Alex Erickson and Peters was draped all over it. He cut underneath and was gone for a 28-3 lead with 3:42 left in the half.
But on the next drive Finley got some man-on-man performances from Mixon (grinding for 63 yards on 14 carries in the half) and wide receiver Auden Tate (stiff-arming his way to three catches for 36 yards for the half, two on this drive) and that set up the play to Eifert.
Bernard returned in the second half, but the Bengals lost rookie tight end Drew Sample for the game late in the first half with an ankle injury.
Finley had those rookie ups and downs. On his second series he hit Boyd (six catches for 62 yards) over the middle working on cornerback Marlon Humphrey for a 13-yard gain on third-and-long. On the next play he saw left tackle John Jerry push outside linebacker Matthew Judon past the pocket and ran for 16 yards. But before he could get the next snap, he let the play clock run out for a delay-of-game penalty and the Bengals couldn't overcome the first-and-15.
On second-and-11, Finley had time, moved to his left and came back the other way but threw it low and behind Tate. On third-and-11, Finley took an underneath route to Boyd to set up Randy Bullock's 42-yarder that made it 14-3 early in the second quarter.
Jackson came into the game as the only quarterback in NFL history to rush for back-to-back 100-yards games against the same opponent in the Bengals, so naturally he threw three completions on his first three snaps to stake Baltimore to a 7-0 lead and then expanded it to 21-3 hitting his first 10 passes for 171 yards before throwing an incompletion in the last seconds of the half.
Last month, the Bengals couldn't stop the option. In the first half Sunday, they couldn't stop the tight ends. The Ravens went up 21-3 on a drive Nick Boyle was uncovered for 25 yards and Mark Andrews beat linebacker Preston Brown down the seam for a 17-yard touchdown with 9:28 left in the half. At that point Boyle had 60 yards and Andrews 42 yards. Boyle added a 35-yarder when Pratt and Brown jumped Andrews and safety Jessie Bates III got burned when tried to break it up, but missed the tackle and Boyle took off.
The Bengals went with three safeties on the first snap and Jackson went deep as rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown got behind little-used safety Brandon Wilson as well as cornerback B.W. Webb for 49 yards. Then on the next snap Jackson rolled out and threw across his body and Andrews beat the linebackers for a 19-yard gain and after two plays Jackson had a first-and-goal. Two players later he had a touchdown on a two-yard flip to Andrews working against goal-line backer LaRoy Reynolds. Three passes. Three completions. 7-0 2:42 into the game.
Finley went 7:22 between his first and second series because after he went three-and-out because the Ravens went on a more conventional 75-yard drive to go up 14-0 in the game's first 11 minutes. Jackson and running back Mark Ingram teamed up to get 31 yards on the option and on fourth-and-three from the Bengals 44 Jackson defeated good coverage by Williams on Andrews to barely get the first down. Ingram bulled in standing up for a one-yard touchdown.
PRE-GAME NOTES: While his North Carolina State teammate, Finley drew, his first NFL start, rookie middle linebacker Germaine Pratt got his second against the Ravens as the Bengals begin to make some youth movements.
Pratt starts in place of veteran Preston Brown, the first time he hasn't started when available in his two Bengals seasons. But Brown may end up playing a bunch, too, against Baltimore's top-ranked running game. Last time out in Baltimore the Bengals started Brown, Pratt and Nick Vigil at linebacker. In another bow to Baltimore's ground attack the Bengals dressed all nine defensive linemen and de-activated cornerback Torry McTyer.
Slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard was back after missing the Rams game with a hamstring issue and went inside while B.W. Webb moved outside to take injured Dre Kirkpatrick's spot on the corner.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor decided to stick with John Jerry at left tackle in the rookie Finley's debut and right guard John Miller returned after missing the last two games. With A.J. Green in sweats on the field during pre-game warmups talking to his old Bengals position coach, Ravens quarterback coach James Urban, the Bengals again lined up with Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate and Alex Erickson at wide receiver.
Green did some work before the game after he had been shelved when his ankle flared up following Monday's practice.
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The Bengals starting defense was introduced with each player accompanied by a service member on Salute to Service Sunday. Left end Carlos Dunlap came out with his father, Carlos Dunlap Sr., a Navy and Air Force veteran…
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