CINCINNATI — The Bengals saw it as a chance to show a national audience that they are ready to take a place among the AFC North’s elites.
Not for now, anyway.
The Bengals were shredded in just about every way Monday night during a 44-13 loss in Baltimore that equaled the worst opening-game defeat in franchise history. Joe Flacco passed for 299 yards in little more than three quarters, and the Ravens piled up yards with one big play after another.
Stunning statistic: Baltimore ran 58 plays, and 20 went for at least 10 yards.
“It was opening night, we were on national TV and we laid an egg,” running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis said.
That egg was pretty scrambled, too.
The Bengals (0-1) were ready for the Ravens’ no-huddle offense, prepared to see a lot of deep throws, expecting Ray Rice to get the ball when Baltimore needed a big play. They saw it all coming and couldn’t stop any of it. It was especially troubling for a team that thought it was ready to take the next step.
Cincinnati was one of three AFC North teams to reach the playoffs last season, going 9-7 and earning a wild-card spot. The Bengals did it in part because of their favorable schedule — they went 0-7 against other playoff teams during the season, then lost to Houston in the first round of the playoffs.
The opener against Baltimore was a chance to see if they had made any progress.
They were staggered on the opening play, a 52-yard completion to Torrey Smith. Flacco also had a 34-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. In all, the Ravens had four plays that went for 20 or more yards.
The worst part? Baltimore did nothing unexpected. The Ravens piled up 430 yards overall, even though they went soft with a big lead in the fourth quarter.
“It’s not like new math or anything,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “Those were things we expected to see.”
It turned into one of the worst debuts in franchise history. The Bengals also lost an opener by 31 points in 1991, a 45-14 loss at Denver.
The Bengals get a chance to fix a lot of things in the next few weeks, with the schedule loaded up with teams starting young quarterbacks. They play their home opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (0-1), followed by games at Washington and Jacksonville, home against Miami and on the road against the Browns again.
“Let’s get this out of the way and just get back to working,” Green said.