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.
"It's a great win," said Ravens running back Ray Rice, who struggled again, gaining 30 yards on 18 carries. "Sometimes you have to win by any means necessary. Winning heals a lot."
The Ravens did not play well on offense, but they still managed to take advantage of several Bengals' miscues and costly penalties.
After the Bengals failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from midfield on their first possession, the Ravens made them pay. On the next play, Bengals safety Reggie Nelson was called for pass interference against wide receiver Torrey Smith at the 4-yard line. Three plays later, Flacco found tight end Dallas Clark for a 1-yard score.
It was the first time the Ravens scored a touchdown in the first quarter since the season opener and their first lead since week five against Miami.
"We put ourselves in a big hole," Clark said. "All we can do is take one week at a time and focus. All our energies and focus need to be put into next week and finish the season like that."
Baltimore increased the lead to 10-0 on its next possession on a 36-yard field goal by Tucker with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
An interception by Ihedigbo deep in Bengals territory set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Smith for a 17-0 with 6:30 left in the half. The Bengals outgained the Ravens 102-94 in the first half, but had 114 yards in penalties.
"It's a disappointing loss," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "I thought in the second half, we kind of came out of things and turned ourselves around. We hurt ourselves a lot with penalties in this game."
NOTES: Cincinnati TE Jermaine Gresham was ruled inactive just prior to the game after missing two practices this week because of a groin injury. Alex Smith got the start. ... Despite some optimism earlier in the week, Bengals MLB Rey Maualuga was out Sunday because of a concussion and sprained MCL he suffered Oct. 27 against the Jets. Vincent Rey got the start at middle linebacker and had an interception and three sacks. ... A.J. Shipley started at left guard for Baltimore after G Kelechi Osemele was placed on injured reserve with a herniated disk. Shipley injured his leg in the third quarter and did not return.