Yes. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson can throw, too.
In his two previous games against the Bengals, he averaged 135 yards on the ground. So on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium you couldn’t blame the Bengals for being surprised when Jackson came out chucking on the first three plays and four of the first five for a touchdown on his way to completing his first ten passes during Baltimore’s 49-13 victory.
“They’re the No. 1 rushing attack in the league. We were anticipating they were going to try and run the ball down our throat,” said right end Sam Hubbard.
Jessie Bates III, one of the three safeties on the field for the first snap that went for 49 yards to rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown on a deep post, knows he can fling it because he played against him in college. But on the first play a deep ball after last week?
“Yeah,” said Bates when asked if it was a surprise. “They obviously run the hell out of the ball and did it last Sunday night. They have to let him throw the ball a little bit.”
For much of the day the Bengals matched the Ravens’ heavy personnel (some three tight-end looks, some two tight-end looks) with their own big people, often five linemen and three safeties. On that first play, the bomb to Brown, Hubbard was an outside backer and the little-used Brandon Wilson was the third safety. And Jackson found him to trying to give help to cornerback B.W. Webb, but Brown ran by them both.
“That play should never happen in that coverage,” said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor.
Count Bengals safety Shawn Williams in Jackson's MVP surge.
“He has my vote, definitely. He’s definitely the best we’ve faced this year," Williams said. "Hats off to them, and what they are doing over there. When he can put up those points, look at what the defense can do with a 20-, 30-point lead — you can just tee off. You get more confident, you have nothing to lose at that point."
HERE’s HOPE: If anyone was a leader Sunday for the Bengals, it was running back Joe Mixon pounding away with a career-high 30 carries and a season-high 114 yards. Everyone, it seems, from CBS analyst Rich Gannon to local scribes, has been on Taylor to run the ball even just a little bit. Not only to take heat off quarterbacks playing without wide receivers A.J. Green and John Ross, but also to showcase Mixon’s prodigious skills as their best player with Green sitting out.
Speaking of Green, it is the first time in the nine seasons of the Green-Dalton Era a Bengals running back has carried at least 30 times in a game. The last time it was done, Carson Palmer handed the ball 31 times to Cedric Benson for 150 yards in a Dec. 19, 2010 victory over Cleveland.
The Bengals offensive line responded to a few tweaks in their blocking schemes that they hoped would ignite the run game and they did. They ran a few more power plays than usual and a few more man-on-man concepts to complement the zone runs.
Taylor indicated after the Bengals ran for a season-high 157 yards on 40 carries (only the second time in the four seasons of the post Hue Jackson Era they hit 40 on the ground) that, yes, they do plan to be more committed to the run because they want to build on the success they had with it two weeks ago in London against the Rams.
“Honestly, what we did today, I would hope so,” said Mixon when asked if he feels the running game is going to be more emphasized. I hope we build on what we’re having. I think that’s what’s going to help us in these games is running the football and controlling the line of scrimmage.”
And Mixon isn’t speaking out of school. On Sunday Taylor went out of his way to praise Mixon for his restrained comments when asked about the run game.
FINLEY’s TOUGH START: Ryan Finley may have had the toughest task ever for a Bengals rookie quarterback in his first start. Yeah, the Steelers sacked David Klingler ten times in 1992, but he didn’t have to keep up with this 21st century monster named Action Jackson.
“Not ideal for anybody. Especially their first start in the league. It’s tough,” said tight end Tyler Eifert. “He did a good job keeping the play alive. Keeping his eyes down field trying to make a play. Confident. Not rattled at all.”
If he got rattled by cornerback Marcus Peters’ 89-yard pick six to make it 28-3 late in the first half he didn’t show it because he came right back to get a touchdown on his first NFL scoring pass. With 26 seconds left in the half, Finley floated a nice touch pass that allowed Eifert to leap and box out defensive back Brandon Carr just inside the front pylon for a six-yard touchdown.
“They were playing man and he threw it up in a good spot where I could make a play,” Eifert said.
Finley was shaking his head over that pick-six. If the Bengals score there instead of the Ravens, it’s 21-10 with the Bengals getting the second half kickoff. Finley audibled with the Ravens pressing the receivers and he tried to hit wide receiver Alex Erickson on an out route. Peters was waiting so expectantly that one Bengal wondered after the game if Peters, who played for the Rams last season, recognized one of the calls from the Rams playbook Taylor brought with him.
“Bad throw,” Finley said. “Can’t leave that throw inside. We got a pressure look. All week that would be one of our checks.”
View the best images from the Bengals' Week 10 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens from Paul Brown Stadium.
LAMAR FOR 47: If Jackson wins the MVP, the highlight they’ll use is the 47-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He sped through a gaping hole on the edge between right end Carlos Dunlap on the inside and rookie linebacker Germaine Pratt getting walled off on the outside. Then as Jackson roared down field, he was in the arms of linebacker Nick Vigil before he spun out of them into the end zone.
Dunlap said he was in the right spot, although he was hoping he was a little closer.
“That was a moment for him. I’m not excited I was a part of it. That I wasn’t able to limit it,” Dunlap said. “I executed my assignment on that play. I feel like I was almost close enough to dive and prevent the touchdown.”
CARLOS’ MOMENT: Dunlap had a moment, too. When the defensive starters were announced, they were accompanied by a service member on Salute to Service Sunday. Dunlap’s partner was Carlos Dunlap, Sr., a Navy veteran. Together they turned and saluted the crowd.
“It was surreal. I can’t put it into words,” Dunlap the son said. “That’s s a childhood dream …. That was second to none. Usually I’m the one running out saluting my family in the family section. You guys have seen that millions and millions of times. But to do it with my dad is a moment I’ll never forget.”
SLANTS AND SCREENS: The Bengals tied a team record with their 11th straight loss … It was the second biggest home loss ever behind only last year’s Saints game … When Bates picked off Jackson backup Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter, it was their first interception in two months and Bates’ first since his pick-six against Tampa Bay a year and two weeks ago.