Two of the NFL’s brightest young stars went toe-to-toe in this Week 5 matchup, as Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals took on Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in the first of what will be many exciting on-field battles.
The 2020 first overall pick came into this one with one of the worst offensive lines in football and had to face off against one of the game's heaviest-blitzing defenses. And to no surprise, the Ravens' pass rush had the rookie under duress for most of the game, helping secure the 27-3 victory.
Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.
STORY OF THE GAME
It was known that Burrow would likely have to play behind one of the worst offensive lines in football this year, and it had been as bad as advertised through the first four weeks of play. But that underperforming line took yet another step back in this contest against their division rivals.
Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale showed no mercy by blitzing Burrow on 59% of his dropbacks, and the pass rush feasted by recording pressure on a staggering 47% of Burrow's dropbacks. To no surprise, Burrow struggled and proceeded to put on his worst display as a pro.
On his 18 dropbacks that came under pressure, Burrow was sacked seven times, recorded three turnover-worthy plays and completed three of just nine pass attempts for 15 yards. And of those 18 dropbacks under pressure, 12 came from blitzes.
The LSU product wasn’t all that bad from a clean pocket, completing 15 of his 21 clean-pocket passes for 165 yards and a big-time throw. The unfortunate context is that most of those passes stemmed from quick throws to avoid the pressure that was inevitably coming.
In terms of expected points added (EPA) per play, this was the least efficient Bengals offense in the Zac Taylor era, at -0.46 EPA per play. For what it’s worth, the second-worst game came in Week 10 of 2019 against … the Baltimore Ravens.
Jackson was also far from his best in this one. He did next to nothing on the ground, with just 3 yards rushing on two carries, and he completed only four of the 13 passes he threw 10 or more yards downfield for no big-time throws and a turnover-worthy play. Those four completions were huge for Baltimore (three of the four came on third down, two came close to the red zone), but at the end of the day, the defense won them this one.
Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins wasn’t overly productive on a per-route basis, as he generated 1.77 yards per route run for the game. He did produce a couple of explosive plays of 15-plus yards to bring his season total to seven, and he also caught all of his catchable targets for the first time this season.
Two of the three linebackers Cincinnati selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither, saw significant time on the field alongside Germaine Pratt and Josh Bynes. Davis-Gaither actually played the most of the bunch but made very few impact plays. The fourth-round pick had just one defensive stop for the game while giving up a first down in coverage and missing two tackles on six attempts. As for Wilson, he did have an interception, but it was gifted right to him. Outside of that, there was little production to speak of — he didn’t record a single defensive stop for the entire game.
While Burrow had a game he’ll want to forget, Baltimore’s first-round selection, Patrick Queen, had a day he will always remember. The linebacker laid a hit stick on his former college teammate, jarring the ball loose upon impact and subsequently recovering the fumble. Then, in the fourth quarter, Marlon Humphrey punched the ball out of Cincinnati wide receiver Mike Thomas’ hands after a catch, and Queen scooped it up and took it to the house. In all, Queen had three defensive stops and made very few mistakes all game long.
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