Bengals-Ravens: What we learned
BALTIMORE -- With their entire season hanging in the balance, the Baltimore Ravens found themselves as victims of one of the most improbable plays in the closing seconds against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton forced overtime with a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green as time expired.
The Ravens, however, still managed to overcome that adversity and escaped with a 20-17 victory on a 46-yard field goal by Justin Tucker on their first possession of the extra period.
With the win, the Ravens (4-5) got back in the race for the AFC North title and trail the first-place Bengals by two games.
"I never really thought we were out of it just because we hadn't played these guys," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We still play Pittsburgh again. We've got a good stretch. Before this, there were eight games left. Anything can happen in that amount of time, especially when you have two division games left."
Flacco threw two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. He completed 20 of 36 pass attempts for 140 yards and was sacked five times. Safety James Ihedigbo had a pair of interceptions and cornerback Lardarius Webb also had a pick for the Ravens.
Despite the late-game heroics, Dalton was also sacked five times and completed just 24 of 51 passes for 274 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Green caught eight passes for 151 yards for the Bengals (6-4).
Trailing 17-0 at the half, Cincinnati finally got on the board with 10:37 left in the third quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Mike Nugent. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Ravens 25 with 9:03 left in the game, Dalton slid for the first down to prolong the drive.
On the next play, Dalton found running back Giovani Bernard for an 18-yard yard touchdown, cutting the margin to 17-10. The Ravens appeared to seal the victory by sacking Dalton on a third-and-16 with seconds remaining. However, on the next play Dalton threw a 51-yard pass that was tipped once, then batted up by Ihedigbo and grabbed by Green in the end zone to tie the game.
"We can't get down on ourselves," Dalton said. "There's a lot left in the season, and we can control our own fate. We're still in a very good position with a lot in front of us. We just need to play our best."
On a fourth-and-2 from the Baltimore 33 in overtime, the Ravens tackled Bernard on swing pass in the backfield for an 11-yard loss, a play that weaved from one side of the field to the other -- all behind the line of scrimmage -- before giving the Ravens great field position.
What the Bengals said
"I thought this was a game where we showed the kind of attitude that these guys have and play with. They could have put their tail between their legs and ducked their head and checked out of it. But they didn't do that. They just kept playing. Heck, we scored on the very last play of the ball game. The defense was on a short field much of the game today and they didn't flinch. That's what we have to do." -- Bengals coach Marvin Lewis
What the Ravens said
"Who did this game -- CBS? Well, they got their money's worth. Great football game. Hats off to the Bengals. They played very well. There is no give up in that football team." -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh
What we learned about the Bengals
1. Quarterback Andy Dalton is going to have to play more consistently if the Bengals want to make a deep run in the playoffs. Dalton struggled to get the offense going Sunday against constant pressure from the Ravens, who sacked him five times. Dalton completed 24 of 51 passes for 274 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also had several passes knocked down by the Ravens' defensive line. Dalton did manage to come up big in the closing seconds with a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green to force overtime.
2. Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey was a spark for the defense by filling in for the injured Rey Maualuga. Rey had eight tackles with three sacks for losses of 19 yards with an interception. He also caused consistent problems for Baltimore's offensive line. He will not unseat Maualuga as the starting middle linebacker, but he proved to the Bengals that he can be a major contributor on defense.
What we learned about the Ravens
1. The Ravens were finally able to get off to a fast start for the first time since the season opener because they had an effective balance of running and throwing the football. Granted, their opening touchdown was helped by a pass interference penalty by Bengals safety Reggie Wilson, but they were still able to execute. It was the first time the Ravens scored a touchdown in the first quarter in the past seven games. It was also their first lead since Week 5 against Miami. The offense, however, sputtered in the second half and almost cost the Ravens the game.
2. Safety James Ihedigbo has become one of the team's top playmakers and had a key role in Sunday's 20-17 overtime victory. Ihedigbo had two interceptions, including one late in the fourth quarter that ended a potential scoring drive. He also had nine combined tackles, including one for a loss.