Bengals present immediate challenge
Division foe brings plenty of firepower to season-opening showdown in NFC North
Terrell Suggs has a firm grasp of what constitutes a good time. Opening the season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati does not qualify as one.
“It is never fun to start with a team like the Bengals with all those weapons,” the Ravens outside linebacker said Wednesday. “When you start with a team that is good like that, that is explosive like that, it is going to be hard for teams to match that week to week.
“It is good while you are healthy, and it is the first one out, that you get to play a team that has a lot of firepower. We are looking forward to it.”
Suggs’ trepidation is warranted. Although the Ravens and Bengals are deadlocked at 21 wins apiece in their annual series, Cincinnati has won six of the last seven and seven of the last nine games.
The Ravens’ troubles against their AFC North rivals have not escaped the players, who have far too often been on the wrong end of those results.
“They’re a division opponent, and they’ve played us tough,” right guard Marshal Yanda said. “They’ve played better football than us there, and we haven’t done the things we need to do to win. We were talking about it, and in 2011, we ran the ball well. I don’t think we gave up any big plays, stuff like that.
“[Quarterback] Joe [Flacco] played well, too. Just playing winning football on all three phases, not turning the ball over, penalties on the road is another big one — just all those factors.”
There does not seem to be one common thread in the team’s losses to the Bengals. On the one hand, the Ravens rushed for less than 100 yards in five losses. On the flipside, the offense did not reach the century mark in its last two wins and ran for 206 and 107 yards on Dec. 30, 2012, and Oct. 26, 2014, respectively, but those totals still did not lead to success.
Similarly, the defense surrendered at least 350 yards in five losses. But Cincinnati persevered on189 and 292 yards on Dec. 30, 2012, and Jan. 3, 2016, respectively, and the Ravens won on Nov. 10, 2013, and Nov. 27, 2016, despite giving up 364 and 325 yards, respectively.
And then there are the struggles that Flacco has had against the Bengals. He has been intercepted 21 times (10 more than any other opponent) and thrown just 16 touchdown passes in 17 career games against Cincinnati. He also has been sacked 35 times, which is the second-highest total against any other team.
While acknowledging that Paul Brown Stadium “is a tough place to play,” Flacco will rely on a simple formula for Sunday. Season opener Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM