Ravens Outlast Bengals In War Of Attrition, 20-17Posted on November 10, 2013 by Joe Platania
THREE-GAME LOSING STREAK SNAPPED; TEAM NOW 4-5
M&T BANK STADIUM, BALTIMORE -- On such crazy afternoons, entire seasons can turn.
But when the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals finished their AFC North war of attrition Nov. 10, it was the Ravens that had taken home a 20-17 overtime win and the first-place Bengals who had been dealt another painful extra-session loss.
Justin Tucker's 46-yard field goal with the wind with 5:27 left during the extra session capped off a wild afternoon during which both teams allowed five sacks, committed three turnovers, and combined for 17 penalties and an 8-for-35 third-down conversion rate.
Most important for the 70,992 home fans that witnessed it, the game kept the Ravens in the AFC North race, tying Baltimore (4-5) with bye-week Cleveland for second place behind the first-place Bengals (6-4), who have now lost two straight overtime games.
The Ravens had lost four of their last five games by 14 total points and needed to win a close game, as they used to with regularity.
"[The TV audience] got their money's worth, huh?" said an exhausted head coach John Harbaugh, who has presided over a trio of three-game losing streaks, but avoided what would have been his first-ever four-game skein. "I told [Bengals coach] Marvin Lewis that these games always come down towards the end.
"What I admire most is the heart of our guys, the hearts of champions. Where will it lead us? We'll find out."
After a desperation, last-second touchdown catch by top Bengals wideout A.J. Green (151 yards, eight catches, touchdown), it appeared things were leading toward the kind of devastating home loss the Ravens suffered to Cincinnati in 2004, when Carson Palmer led a 17-point comeback to a win that helped knock defending division champion Baltimore out of the playoff race.
The Ravens held a 17-0 lead during this game, but their three fourth-quarter possessions ended in two turnovers and a punt as the Bengals rallied.
During overtime, flush off its comeback, Cincinnati won the coin toss and appeared to have everything going its way. But, driving into the stadium's east (tunnel) end, they were going into the wind, so Lewis decided not to go for a long field goal on fourth down.
Defensive standout James Ihedigbo (team-high nine tackles, tackle for loss, two interceptions, three pass breakups) and cornerback Corey Graham then stuffed running back Giovani Bernard (58 yards, 14 rushes; 37 yards, eight catches, touchdown) on a fourth-down run, giving the ball back to the Ravens at their own 44-yard line.
Passes to Ray Rice (30 yards, 18 rushes; 26 yards, six catches) and Ed Dickson (28 yards, three catches) covered 21 yards before the Ravens played it close to the vest and let Tucker win it on a kick that slid just inside the right goalpost for his fifth-career game-winner and his 16th straight successful kick.
"We have to improve as a team," Harbaugh said. "But all phases did whatever they had to do to win this game."
But first, they had to hold off the Bengals.
Veteran cornerback Terence Newman notched the second interception of Joe Flacco (20-for-36, 140 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, five sacks, 60 rating) to get the Bengals' rally under way. Top receiver Green, who had been kept mostly quiet during the first half, then got open over the middle for gains of 20 and 18 yards.
When Mohamed Sanu dropped a pass at the Ravens' 3, Cincinnati faced a fourth-and-2 at the Ravens' 25-yard line, which quarterback Andy Dalton (24-for-51, 274 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, five sacks, 52.2 rating) picked up with a read-option keeper. On the next play, Bernard took a short pass and scampered past defenders for an 18-yard score, which cut the Ravens' lead to seven, 17-10, with 8:22 to go.
The eight-play, 71-yard drive took four minutes off the clock and, with the Ravens holding one remaining timeout, the Bengals appeared to be seizing momentum.
That appeared especially true after Baltimore wide receiver Jacoby Jones caught a pass for a first down before Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict shoved him to the ground. In turn, Ravens receiver Torrey Smith (46 yards, five catches, touchdown) shoved Burfict down and -- as always seems to be the case with a retaliator -- drew a 15-yard penalty.
Dickson then made amends with a 14-yard catch to the 38 and another first down, but defensive end Carlos Dunlap later killed the drive by stripping Flacco of the ball with James Harrison recovering at midfield.
Ihedigbo seemed to salt the game away with his second pickoff, but the Bengals used all three timeouts on defense and got the ball back on their own 40 with 1:28 on the clock.
Dalton drove the Bengals to the Ravens' 44, but an Elvis Dumervil sack (three tackles, 2.5 sacks) pushed them back to their side of the field. On fourth-and-15 with two seconds left, Dalton heaved a desperation pass to the end zone that was tipped once, then twice -- Ihedigbo mistakenly sent the second deflection airborne -- before settling into Green's hands for the game-tying touchdown.
"One good thing that coach Harbuagh emphasized all week was finishing," Dumervil said. "At that moment, we were able to seize on that. … The guys were frustrated on that [Hail Mary] play. … But we regrouped as a defense and went out and answered the call."
BENGALS MAKE SMALL INROADS
During the first half, it was Cincinnati that looked like the struggling team, not one leading the division and coming off a 10-day mini-bye.
The Ravens had better field position -- their average drive start was their own 41-yard line, as opposed to the Bengals' beginning on their own 23 -- and more sustained momentum, thanks in part to Cincinnati mistakes.
Four of the Ravens' 10 first-half first downs came via Bengals penalties, while the Ravens were flagged twice during the first 30 minutes. Even with the Bengals' strong start to the season, opponents had committed a league-low 30 penalties against them.
Not only that, two sure interceptions were dropped by Bengals defenders, and Cincinnati became the first Ravens opponent in approximately two years to be held scoreless at halftime.
The Bengals tried to rectify that immediately; Dalton found first-round rookie tight end Tyler Eifert for 40 yards to the Ravens' 35. Dalton snuck over center to convert a fourth-and-1 situation before trying to find Eifert again in the end zone, but linebacker Daryl Smith had him well covered, and the Bengals settled for Mike Nugent's 32-yard field goal, which made the score 17-3.
Cincinnati then tried to involve receiver Marvin Jones -- who had a four-touchdown game last month against the New York Jets -- into the offense.
A pass to Jones down the right seam was apparently on target, but cornerback Lardarius Webb came up with the ball at midfield for the Ravens' second interception of the day.
But Green added to his NFL-leading reception yards total by leaping between Ihedigbo and Jimmy Smith for a 43-yard catch to the Ravens' 40. Baltimore safety Matt Elam then took down Green, who had been held to two first-half receptions for 11 yards, near the sideline.
It seemed that Green might have fumbled the ball away to the Ravens, but the ruling was that he was down by contact. Harbaugh challenged the ruling and did not prevail, meaning that the team had one fewer timeout and no further challenges at a time when such shortcomings could prove pivotal.
On top of that, despite scoring just three points, the Bengals had managed to outgain the Ravens during the third quarter by a 104-25 margin, doubling their own first-half output. They had done a good job holding the emotional Ravens at bay, which certainly wasn't the case as the game began.
QUICK THINKING, AND A QUICK START
The Ravens began this game looking as predictable as ever, which might have lulled Cincinnati to sleep a bit, for they quickly turned unpredictable. In turn, that led to a fast start.
Baltimore went three-and-out on its first series, lowlighted by a Dallas Clark dropped pass on third-and-4. Cincinnati seemed to seize the initiative with a deeper running game; BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained 6 yards on a strong run before Bernard used his elusiveness out of the backfield to haul in a 6-yard pass.
The latter play left the Bengals at fourth-and-1 near midfield, and they tried to seize early momentum by going for it. But the Baltimore defense bottled up Dalton's quarterback sneak, and the Ravens got possession.
The Ravens unveiled some imagination on offense, as a Rice-to-Flacco flea-flicker toss resulted in a long left-seam pass for Jacoby Jones. Bengals safety Reggie Nelson face guarded Jones at the 5-yard line, drawing a pass-interference call and setting up the Ravens for first-and-goal.
With extra Baltimore tackles Rick Wagner and Haloti Ngata on the field, runs by Rice and Vonta Leach got the ball to the 1.
On third down, with the defense sufficiently loosened up, Flacco rolled right and found Clark in the back of the end zone for the game's first points and the Ravens' first opening-quarter touchdown since Week One at Denver.
But the Ravens gave the Bengals a gift on the visitors' third-and-8 play when Ngata was called for roughing Dalton. Cincinnati then broke out some creativity of its own when Marvin Jones ran an end-around for a first down at the Bengals' 48.
A pass rush that had fallen to seventh in the league with 28 sacks then harassed Dalton to the point that the drive stalled, especially when Dumervil forced a third-down incompletion after a delay-of-game call. The Bengals, whose last win in Baltimore came in 2009, seemed rattled early.
Cincinnati safety Chris Crocker, whose holding call on the Ravens' touchdown was declined, then added a face-mask call to his résumé to put the home team back in Bengals territory. Bernard Pierce's 12-yard reception and 8-yard run then set up a Tucker 36-yard field goal -- his 15th straight successful attempt -- to extend the lead to 10.
It marked the first time Baltimore had recorded a double-digit point total during the first quarter since the Divisional Round playoff game at Denver in January, and the first time it had done so during a regular-season game since playing the New York Giants in December 2012. In both instances, the Ravens ended up winning.
BENGALS' YEAR, BUT RAVENS' DAY
Bernard then showed the resourcefulness that has made him one of the most feared rookies in the NFL, stretching out by the sideline to pick up a first down, then bursting through the middle for 18 yards to the Ravens' 36. Green-Ellis then added two runs that totaled 10 yards, running the Bengals' first-quarter ground advantage to 57-17.
Despite trailing by 10 points, Cincinnati was dominating in other statistics as well, possessing the ball for 10 minutes, running 22 of the game's 34 plays and getting 93 total yards to the Ravens' 54.
But the Ravens looked like the hungrier team, and when Dumervil and Arthur Brown chased Dalton -- who completed five of his first 14 passes for 36 yards -- out of the pocket on a third-and-8 incompletion, Nugent had to be called upon for a 42-yard field-goal try to put the division leaders on the board.
Even though it has been the Bengals' year so far, it seemed to be the Ravens' day; the kick sailed wide left in the swirling winds at the stadium's east (tunnel) end, and the Baltimore lead remained at 10-0.
Then, the Ravens did something some of their fans have been screaming for all year, using backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor on a end-around, which gained 18 yards to the Bengals' 33. It was Taylor's first on-field appearance of the season.
But defensive ends Dunlap and Michael Johnson then both crashed in on Flacco and forced him to release his next pass too early. The deflected ball landed in the hands of reserve linebacker Vincent Rey, who had knocked Flacco down several plays earlier, for the Ravens' 14th giveaway of the year. They had 16 turnovers all last season.
Rey was in for the injured Rey Maualuga, further proof that the Bengals' defensive injuries hadn't affected their depth all that much.
Speaking of depth, it's what the Ravens unleashed on the mistake-prone Bengals midway through the second quarter.
Ihedigbo and backup defensive end DeAngelo Tyson stuffed back-to-back running plays before Dalton overshot his receiver and was picked off by Ihedigbo, having a stellar season, who ran it back 37 yards.
It was the Ravens' fifth interception of the year, and it, plus a low-block penalty on the Bengals, put the ball on the Cincinnati 11.
Two plays later, Flacco barely dropped back before he unleashed an end-zone bullet to Smith, who dashed out from the slot and outleaped Nelson for his second touchdown of the year and a 17-0 Baltimore lead.
But the game was far from over. The way things turned out, the season may have some life in it as well.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado received the AL Platinum Glove, a Rawlings award given to the best overall fielder in each league, Nov. 8.