The Cincinnati Bengals did something they had never done before last night, they won their season opener on Monday Night Football. Of course, they had never opened a season at home on Monday Night before, but the milestone still has plenty of meaning for a team that entered the game with lots of question marks. The Bengals pulled the win out in what ended up being a sometimes ugly, sometimes thrilling start to the season 27-20. Some bright spots and some that were not so bright but in the end, the W is all that matters. Let’s take a look at the important parts of the game we highlighted yesterday in our preview…..
- Run Defense – this has been a sore spot for the Bengals for years, and the running offense has been lackluster for the Ravens for the past couple seasons as well. But with the addition of Willis Magahee to the Ravens, he could give the Bengals fits all night. ***Bengals “hold” the Ravens running attack to 107 yards and 4.3 per carry. Not tremendous, but much better than some previous Bengal Rushing D’s.
- Todd Heap – Heap is a Bengals killer and always has been. He had 113 yards against Cincy last year and over 100 and two scores in 2005. The Bengals need to contain Heap in the red zone. ***Bengals keep Heap out of the endzone, and just barely do so. The combination of the horrible penalty on Heap late and his equally horrible missed opportunity on the last play lead to only 4 catches for 29 yards.
- Turnovers – While this is a point of emphasis every week in the NFL, it is especially true against the Ravens. The Bengals cannot afford to give the ball away and let the Ravens D score. With Ed Reed and Ray Lewis waiting to pounce, Palmer and the boys really need to take care of the ball. *** We hit this one on the head, Bengals go +4 on turnovers, and do not win unless they do.
- Bengals O-Line – With 3/5 of the line banged up the worries about keeping Carson protected are high. If the line can hold well for the Bengals tonight, and all season for that matter, it will make a huge difference for this offense. *** Great protection in the first half for Palmer leads to the TD strike to Johnson. The second half not as good but Palmer still is only sacked once on the night.
Overall, a great win for the Bengals. And yes, they should always win games when they have a +4 turnover ratio, are at home on national TV and mostly benefit from some huge mis-calls by the officials. But, a win is a win. And a divisional win to start the season can not be discounted, no matter what. Stay tuned for some more thoughts and injury updates coming up soon.