Well, 0-2. Can't say this doesn't feel painfully familiar.
After getting embarrassed last week a little further north vs. their in-state rivals, the Bengals came back to Cincinnati for their home opener, with another divisional matchup against the team that has been their biggest competition the past couple of seasons for the division title: The Baltimore Ravens, led by Lamar Jackson, another franchise quarterback who got a huge paycheck this off-season.
They had won their last two against the Ravens (though lost the last time Jackson was under center) and hoped to make it three in a row here to even up their record. Ultimately, they'd fall short, losing 27-24 in a pretty wild game that saw rookie Charlie Jones return a punt for an 81-yard touchdown and Justin Tucker actually miss a field goal.
The offense improved considerably from Week 1 and was finally able to break the plane, with Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins both looking much better after their awful season opener. However, in the end, neither side of the ball did enough to win the game, as the defense once again struggled mightily against the run while the offense took too long to get going and was stunted by questionable playcalling.
Too many mistakes were made all around and, to put it bluntly, Baltimore simply outperformed Cincy in almost all facets of the game. However, there was one moment in particular that you can easily point to as costing the Bengals the game...
What was the turning point in the Bengals' Week 2 loss?
The Bengals came out of half looking like they were going to right the ship, as the offense got off to a hot start. They started at their own 25-yard line and managed to get into the red zone, all the way down to the Ravens' 17-yard line.
After six quarters, it appeared the offense had finally begun to click and they were well on their way to scoring their first touchdown of the season. Burrow was looking comfortable and the offensive line was protecting him fairly well.
Things would take a turn here.
Dropping back, the line held firm and Burrow had time to make magic, finally giving fans something to cheer about on offense. Unfortunately, Burrow would attempt an erroneous throw over the middle-- looking for Tee Higgins in the end zone-- completely missing Ravens' safety Geno Stone, who made the easy read and jumped in front of the pass for an interception at the goal-line, which he would return to their own 38-yard line. The Ravens would capitalize off this turnover and find the end zone four plays later on a touchdown pass to Mark Andrews.
While the Bengals would find the end zone two more times in the three drives they had on offense after this, it wouldn't be enough, and the Ravens would ultimately win by three points. In a game this close, making an errant mistake like throwing a red zone interception is the difference between winning and losing.
A 14-point swing-- or, at the very least, a 10-point swing (this close to the end zone is an almost guaranteed make for Evan McPherson)-- is absolutely brutal. If they made the most of this visit to the red zone, the Ravens might have gone home with a loss, and the Bengals head into Week 3 with much more momentum. Instead, the Bengals get to a slow start to kick off the season once again and a 0-2 record for the second year in a row.
It stings, but there's still a good deal of football left to be played, so don't call this season a wash just yet.
The Stripes are almost certainly heading into their Monday night matchup against the Los Angeles Rams next week in 'must-win' mode after this one. We'll have to see if they're up for the challenge or if this season will start even worse than the last.