CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Za'Darius Smith #90 of the Baltimore Ravens pressures Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images
Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images

Sports Today: Bengals loss a blip, or sign of things to come?

The Cincinnati Bengals’ season-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens could not have gone worse. 

That isn’t hyperbole. There are virtually no positives to take away from it aside from no one being seriously injured. 

Morrison: 5 takeaways from the Bengals’ loss

The way Marvin Lewis’ team looked Sunday, that won’t matter in the long run because they can’t win with this collection of players if they can’t even look competitive against an average-at-best Baltimore team. 

The Ravens made the questions about the offensive line look completely valid. Yes, Baltimore has a good defensive line, but, ya know, there are lots of teams with good players throughout the league so that’s kind of beside the point. 

Guys who haven’t proven they can do it at this level got worked over. 

I did not expect that unit to be good, but I hoped they could be average enough to let the talented guys do their jobs. 

They weren’t in Week 1. They might get better, but the problems looked to be physical, and I’m not sure they are going to get stronger or more athletic over the next few weeks. 

But the even more alarming thing was how Andy Dalton reacted to it — not like a franchise quarterback would. 

Which is further proof Dalton is not one of those. 

»WATCH: Dalton talks about his disastrous day

He’s a starter-level quarterback — which is something like a dozen teams in the league don’t have and explains why he makes a nice salary — but nothing in his history shows he can lift a team when it needs him to. 

Last season, he wasn’t very good during the stretch in the middle that saw them fall out of playoff contention. 

Sunday he made multiple crippling errors before the offensive line really started caving in. 

As things got worse, so did Dalton. 

That’s what you would expect from a rookie, not a player in his seventh season. 

Since we already know he’s not going to wow with his physical gifts, he has to be great mentally. 

Too often, he isn’t. And that’s a big problem. 

If help is not on the way for Andy Dalton or from him, the Bengals are in for a long season. 

But, hey, it’s Week 1.

They don’t call it Overreaction Monday for nothing. 

Maybe Dalton settles down and plays better next week. He almost certainly will.

The offensive line? That’s another story... 

Meanwhile, the defense was not great either against a Ravens offense that entered with a lot of questions. 

Had Baltimore needed to try to score points in the second half, the numbers there could have been a lot uglier for the Bengals, who let the Ravens survive a game in which their quarterback was playing for the first time this year and didn’t really have to do anything. 

This was a huge opportunity squandered by the Bengals, and we already know how small the margin of error is in the NFL… 

As for Ohio State, the problem to me remains more related to running than passing. 

Improving the passing game has become an obsession over the past two-plus years, but many of the passing game’s problems stem from how and/or when the Buckeyes try to run. 

A long-time truism of offensive football: Passing is only necessary if someone stops you from running.

Ohio State forgets this frequently now. 

RELATED: Buckeyes rocked at home by Oklahoma

The passing game problems started two years ago because Cardale Jones couldn’t consistently connect with deep threats. 

It has since morphed into a crisis for the whole offense, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

There’s nothing wrong with Meyer’s tried-and-true philosophy of running the ball until it gets stopped and then going deep when starts to happen. 

You don’t have to be too efficient when you do this. It just takes a couple hits to either get you points or soften up the defense. 

Then you can still spend the rest of the game delivering body blows — especially if the guys running are a threat to make a big play themselves. 

But Ohio State doesn’t do this anymore, and it has had a big ripple effect on its last two big games, both losses in which they were embarrassed by Clemson and Oklahoma… 

I didn’t watch any of the Browns-Steelers game because I was watching the Bengals and Ravens, but it’s time to acknowledge Ryan Shazier plays a reckless and dangerous brand of football that needs to be reined in. 

Some contact was probably unavoidable here because the slide was a little late, but that has no effect on the real problem with this play by Shazier: His eyes are pointed right at the turf and he makes contact with the top of his helmet first. 

The NFL should suspend him multiple games and buy commercial time next Sunday afternoon to show this hit and to explain to the country why it is completely unacceptable. 

It’s is dangerous not only for the ball-carrier but also the tackler. 

Leading with the crown is a bad habit Shazier has had at least since his college days at Ohio State. 

It was also the issue with his brutal hit on Giovani Bernard in the playoffs two years ago that the NFL ludicrously declared legal because of the angle he came from. 

These types of hits are the ones that needed to be weeded out before the expansion of the rules we have seen over the past decade. 

They stem from bad fundamentals to begin with and are easy to spot from a mile away, unlike lots of what is called “unnecessary roughness” now. 

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