First-place Bengals savor win over Ravens, but wary of overconfidence

Cincinnati plays third straight road game Sunday against one-win Jets

CINCINNATI -- Tyler Boyd said he and his Cincinnati Bengals teammates were confident they could beat Baltimore, but the way they dominated Sunday was a pleasant surprise that should put the rest of the league on notice not to overlook them.

The Bengals scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to beat the Ravens 41-17 on the road Sunday. At 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the AFC North, they moved into first in the division and also into the top spot in playoff seedings as the only team unbeaten in conference play.

“We were pretty confident going into the game, thinking we were going to win because ... we believe in ourselves,” Boyd said Monday. “But we didn’t think we were going to beat them that bad because Baltimore is a great team and their defense is always top five in the league. That was my first time really, actually doing them that way since the time I’ve been here. So, it felt great.”

Boyd said he took some time to enjoy the win, but the Bengals aren’t satisfied and they can’t take any opponent for granted.

That especially is the case this week. Cincinnati will be back on the road for a third straight game Sunday when they play the struggling New York Jets (1-5). The Bengals still need to keep improving and can’t overlook the Jets, Boyd said.

“There’s no games that we take for granted and take nobody lightly,” Boyd said. “We want to go out there and win and beat any team that comes across our schedule.

“Just come in ready to work,” he added. “We’re past Baltimore. Now it’s time for a whole new week. Hopefully we get guys ready to come in Wednesday and just get straight to work and then continue to do what we’ve been doing. ”

It’s been a while since the Bengals experienced anything like this. Their last winning season came in 2015, when they blew a lead late against the Steelers in the playoffs and haven’t been back since. Cincinnati got off to slow starts the next two seasons before opening 4-1 in 2018 only to win just two more games the rest of the way.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor, who was 6-25-1 his first two seasons after replacing Marvin Lewis in 2019, said the staff has to be careful to make sure the team stays focused and doesn’t get too confident by the quick turnaround from the last two years.

“It’s a concern,” Taylor said. “We set out to win the division and go to the playoffs, and we didn’t set out to just have a good first seven games this season. That wasn’t anything that was on our mind so just making sure that we handle what little bit of success we’ve had so far the right way is critical because there’s been plenty of teams that have started hot and started well, that don’t handle it the right way, because now they’re getting all the praise that maybe they didn’t get before and they get engulfed in that and they start feeling themselves a little bit. And, we’re not going to allow our guys to do that. You can have the joy because we earned it, we need these wins, we want to have these locker room celebrations, these plane rides that are so much fun, but you’ve got to be able to flip the switch and refocus.”

Boyd remembers what that felt like to get off to a good start in 2018 and watch it slip away. Injuries played a big part in that, but he was just starting to come into his own as a playmaker for the offense, and he couldn’t properly enjoy individual success without it carrying over into team success.

That was his first season with 1,000 yards receiving. He joined the team just after that last playoff season in 2015.

“Every year for me has been a struggle besides my third year,” Boyd said. “I think we started out 4-1 or 5-2 the same way, and then guys started to get hurt in the back end and then the season went the wrong way, but, yeah, I’m always happy about the team success because everybody loves to win. It’s hard to get wins in the National Football League, no matter who you’re playing. You could be playing an 0-10 team, and you’ve still got a chance of losing. You’ve just got to come prepared. You’ve gotta always come ready to play and you just got to just continue to stay focused.”

The Bengals added about a dozen players over the past two years that came from playoff teams, and Taylor has talked about that being important for building a winning mentality and culture of success.

Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie believes that helps but credited the guys who have been with the Bengals through the good and bad, laying a foundation to build on this season.

“Obviously individually, to bring players in like that, that have been on winning teams or have touched the playoffs, we know what it takes, but you want to also credit the guys that have been here because they’ve went through the ups and downs of being a Bengal for longer than we have,” Awuzie said. “So, we don’t really know how it was here culture wise, but like I said, they welcomed us with open arms, and they looked like a team that was ready to win, so a lot of credit to those guys who have been here. Sam Hubbard and Joe Burrow ... it’s guys like that who are just top-tier to your locker room guys, always bright smiles, very focused, very locked in. I think it’s the culture that was being established here and then we just added to it.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Bengals at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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