The Bengals' 2-3 start is surprising in of itself. But the issues plaguing Cincinnati's offense is what is the most surprising part of the defending AFC champion's slow start.

Cincinnati's high-powered offense, led by Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Joe Mixon and a re-tooled offensive line, has scored more than 20 points in just two of the team's first five games. The Bengals offense, after rebounding to score 27 points in each of the team's previous two games, scored just 17 points in Sunday night's loss in Baltimore. A lack of big plays and questionable play-calling are among the biggest reasons for the unit's struggles. The latter led to coach Zac Taylor being asked whether or not he would consider relinquishing play-calling duties. 

"It's collective, on the headset, every play," Taylor said, via Joe Danneman of FOX19. "So whether it's coming out of my mouth or somebody else's, it all gets the same end result."

Taylor said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, offensive line coach Frank Pollack, quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher, receivers coach Troy Walters, and tight ends coach James Casey each have input as to what plays are called in-game. 

"We communicate every play," Taylor said. "We talk through it after every single series."

Cincinnati's offense started slow Sunday night. It started the game with four punts before putting together consecutive scoring drives to end the half. Cincinnati had just three drives in the second half: an interception on the team's first play; a turnover on downs after Taylor elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the Ravens' 2-yard-line; and a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Burrow that gave the Bengals a 17-16 lead with 2:39 left. 

The Bengals defense was unable to hold the lead, however, as Lamar Jackson moved the Ravens offense 50 yards to set up Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal. With the loss, the Bengals became the first team in NFL history to lose three of their first five games on the final play. 

The decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal, and the play that was selected -- a shovel pass to receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. -- has come under scrutiny. So did the Bengals' play call two plays earlier that saw Tyler Boyd's pass attempt to Burrow go awry. Cincinnati ran those plays instead of giving the ball to Mixon, who for the game averaged nearly 5.6 yards-per-carry. 

Boyd declined to speak to reporters after the game, while Mixon offered a short, vague answer to the play-calling questions. 

"I'm just doing my job," Mixon said, via The Athletic. "I'm running the play that's called."

Burrow offered a more telling -- and discouraging -- response when asked about the lack of explosive plays. Cincinnati had just one pass -- a 33-yard completion to Mike Thomas -- that went for over 20 yards. Tight end Hayden Hurst finished as the Bengals' leading receiver with 53 yards and a score on six receptions. Chase ended the night with just 50 yards on seven receptions despite being targeted a dozen times. Boyd finished the game with only 32 yards on three receptions. Higgins was sidelined for most of the game with an injury. 

"There's just nothing down the field if teams are going to play us like they did today," Burrow said, via ESPN.

The Ravens deployed what many of the Bengals' previous opponents have used to slow the offense down: a Cover 2 package that invites shorter throws while restricting bigger ones. Other talented offensive units -- such as the Chiefs -- have faced similar coverages in recent years. Kansas City has responded by being more diplomatic with their deep shots. The Bengals have followed suit as far as being selective in their deep shots; they just haven't had much success when taking those shots. 

There are at least three things that could help the Bengals offense score more points while possibly opening things up downfield. A healthy Higgins would be extremely beneficial. More carries for Mixon -- especially when the running game has the hot hand like it did Sunday -- and more targets for Boyd would also go a long way in improving the offense. Callahan and Taylor agreed Monday that Boyd needs to be more active in the offense going forward. 

One thing that won't change is how the Bengals' play calls are communicated into the huddle. Taylor will continue to be the one doing so, with input from the offensive staff. The plays that are called, and how the offense will flow, is still a work in a progress, according to Taylor. 

"We're going to continue to work as a unit and coaching staff to have a better flow over the course of the game," Taylor said, "and score more points than we've scored."