Ravens shut out Bengals 20-0 to open season

The biggest issues facing the Bengals in the hangover of Sunday’s 20-0 Opening Day loss to the Ravens before a stunned 55,254 at Paul Brown Stadium are right up front.

Offense and defense.

After three of four career-high Andy Dalton interceptions staked Baltimore to a 17-0 half-time lead, the dazed Bengals got a flicker of hope on the second half’s first series when SAM linebacker Nick Vigil made a diving interception at the Ravens 26.

But their shaky pass protection in the first half was immediately exposed on the brief drive when on third down-and-two from the Ravens 6, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs yet again beat left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and did what he’s been doing to quarterbacks for 15 years when he punched the ball away from Dalton for his fourth turnover in the season’s first 35 minutes. Suggs, a month shy of 35, looked as spry as a rookie in Ogbuehi’s second NFL start at left tackle.

That turned into a fumble recovery by nose tackle Michael Pierce at his 12 and then what happened next was just doesn’t happen in the NFL’s 21s century. The Ravens embarked on an 18-play drive that consumed the next 9:38 and quarterback Joe Flacco gingerly tried two passes that were incomplete. The Ravens smashed it all the way down the field for Justin Tucker’s 25-yard field goal that made it 20-0 with 1:06 left in the third quarter.

Two penalties by players in their first NFL game, cornerback William Jackson (pass interference) and nose tackle Andrew Billings (unnecessary roughness) as well as a third-down hold on Vigil didn’t help.

Check Elias. It may be the first time in NFL history a team reached the 13 three times and didn’t score a point. That happens when you can’t protect the quarterback on a five-sack day and it happened with about five minutes left in the game on fourth down from the 15 when the Ravens’ three-man rush forced Dalton out of the pocket and he had to throw it away when no one got open.

Frustration? It was just the second time in his career Dalton threw four interceptions, both by Baltimore, the first time on Dec. 29, 2013 at PBS When he threw the fourth one to wide receiver A.J. Green that got picked by cornerback Jimmy Smith with about four minutes left, Green fired his helmet in the air on the sidelines.

The Bengals’ 50th anniversary season and their first home opener in eight years went wildly off script. The only history that was made was their first shutout in a home opener and their first shutout in an opener of any kind since the Homer Rice days 38 years ago in Denver. It’s also the first time they’ve been shut out at home anytime in a pre-Marvin Lewis blanking by the Bears in 2001 and the first one anywhere anytime since Oct. 19, 2014 in Indianapolis.

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