This will be a moment that will live forever.
Well, it should have been.
After an ocean of incompetency that should have ended with a vomit-inducing loss, the Cincinnati Bengals offense relied on amazing luck with an assist by a resilient defense. Down by a touchdown with three seconds remaining in the game at midfield, Andy Dalton blindly launched the football deep downfield, against a heavy breeze as the clock expired.
Tipped, deflected, the football shot in the air like a volley ball where A.J. Green stood alone to embrace the touchdown reception and send the game into overtime.
Though the feeling was not unlike an impossible win against insurmountable odds, it only sustained a game that featured a struggling Bengals offense and a defense that, while holding their own, were plagued with penalties and dropped interceptions.
Cincinnati went with a more conservative approach in overtime, using a balance of runs, quick throws, but not without it's high-risk attempts on third down to sustain possessions and continue their first overtime drive. Eventually the Bengals attempted to go for it on fourth and two from the Ravens 33-yard line on a quick flair to Giovani Bernard. Baltimore anticipated it and Bernard, trying to get something out of nothing, lost 11 yards, turning the ball over.
Baltimore moved the football from their own 44-yard line to the Bengals 29-yard and Justin Tuck converted the 46-yard field goal to give Baltimore the 20-17 win.
In the end, this was a story of Cincinnati failing to capitalize on their opportunities while miserably causing enough mistakes to give Baltimore their shots. The 40-yard Tyler Eifert reception, the 43-yard A.J. Green circus grab, the Giovani Bernard ninja-like screen pass; all of that happened. But it was infrequent, occurring in an ocean of incompetence, questionable officiating, and a violent breeze that dictated odd play-calling.
Gigantic leaps forward last month has translated into a complete regression from Cincinnati's entire offense with wind-driven floaters that enabled defenders to close on receiver routes, sled-like pass protection, suffocating penalties that punched momentum in the throat, and migraine-including turnovers. Eventually it became an issue of quarterback sacks in the second half.
However, little of Cincinnati's offense reflected their three-game stretch of monstrous offensive performances that secured wins against the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, and New York Jets in October. It was a carry-over from the embarrassment that highlighted their 22-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins -- consecutive losses to listless teams with no business winning these games.
Even the defense couldn't avoid the viral infection of Cincinnati's collective effort on offense. Yes, the defense kept Baltimore from having any production (which is obviously the point), but penalties kept the Ravens from going three-and-out on several of Baltimore's scoring drives. Despite Vinny Rey and Terence Newman recording interceptions, the defense dropped two more. Yet, the defense were the proverbial heroes that tried keeping Cincinnati in the game until late when Baltimore converted two first downs to kick their eventual game-winner.
START WITH THE TRADITIONAL ZOMBIE WALK
Cincinnati quickly showed signs that would highlight a vomit-inducing first half. After turning the ball over on downs on a fourth and one conversion at midfield with over 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Reggie Nelson was called for a defensive pass interference that moved Baltimore to Cincinnati's five-yard line. Three plays later, Baltimore was leading 7-0.
Turnovers. Check. Penalties. Check. Ravens leading. Check.
On Cincinnati's ensuing drive, the Bengals nearly went three-and-out, but Haloti Ngata was called for roughing the passer giving the Bengals a fresh set of downs.
It didn't matter.
Andy Dalton was flagged for a delay of game and Cincinnati was unable to convert a third-and-11. A poor 28-yard punt forced Baltimore to start at their own 25-yard line. With help from a Chris Crocker face mask, the Ravens reached the Bengals 17-yard line and converted the 36-yard field goal.
By the 4:43 mark in the game, the Ravens were leading 10-0 while the Bengals had more penalty yards (67) than yards on offense (39).
FAILURE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MOMENTUM
Oddly enough it was a Marvin Lewis challenge that lit a fire for Cincinnati's offense. More like a spark without oxygen to really take form.
Dalton dumped off the third and seven pass with 1:57 remaining in the first and Giovani Bernard edged around the right sidelines. As he was being knocked out of bounds, Bernard extended his football hand out. The officials ruled him short of the first down marker, but Lewis won the challenge, giving Cincinnati a first down. He's won all five challenges this year.
On the following play, Dalton scanned the field and shouted instructions for 10-15 seconds before taking the snap. Bernard found a significant gap and sprinted 18 yards to the Ravens 36-yard line.
After a pair of BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs gained 10 yards and a first down, Cincinnati was unable to generate another first down and Mike Nugent pushed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide left.
FAILURE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF INTERCEPTION
It seemed as if Baltimore was gearing up for another score early in the second quarter. Terence Newman was called for a pass interference on third and seven, giving Baltimore a new set of downs from their own 49-yard line. Tyrod Taylor snagged an end around from Joe Flacco afterward, gaining 18 yards down the right sidelines.
However, Cincinnati's defense stuffed the possession.
On third and ten with 11:27 remaining in the second quarter, Carlos Dunlap swept around his block and began dragging Joe Flacco down. Michael Johnson entered the picture and redirected Flacco's desperate throw into the air, which was intercepted by Vincent Rey.
Unfortunately, the interception led to another awful series of offensive production from the offense. Andrew Hawkins was unable to secure the football, but recovered his own fumble. It resulted in a three-yard loss. Dalton threw consecutive incomplete passes and the Bengals eventually punted.
DALTON PICK LEADS TO RAVENS 17-0 LEAD
After the questionable play-call that ran the football on consecutive downs, Andy Dalton badly sailed a third-and-ten throw over the middle that was intercepted by James Ihedigbo at Baltimore's 47-yard line with over seven minutes remaining in the second. The safety returned the football 37 yards to Cincinnati's 22-yard line, adding another 11 yards on Mohamed Sanu's personal foul during the return.
Following a four-yard Ray Rice run to the Bengals seven-yard line, Flacco floated completed a seven-yard throw to Torrey Smith over the middle for a touchdown and 17-0 lead -- the deficit that Cincinnati would face heading into half time.
BENGALS FINALLY ON THE BOARD
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Andy Dalton flipped a quick pass to tight end Tyler Eifert. Avoiding a tackle and spinning the tight rope near the right sidelines, Eifert sprinted 40 yards to the Ravens 35-yard line. Cincinnati picked up another first down with Andy Dalton's quarterback sneak on fourth and one from the Ravens 26-yard line and 13:24 remaining in the third.
After a quarterback sack neutralized Giovani Bernard's four-yard run, Tyler Eifert was unable to haul in the touchdown pass -- it would have been a tough catch, but it was catchable.
Eventually Mike Nugent converted the 32-yard field goal to finally put Cincinnati on the board.
DALTON KICKS MOMENTUM IN THE BALLS
The Cincinnati Bengals opened the second half with an 11-play, 61-yard possession that resulted in a field goal, reducing Baltimore's deficit to 14 points. How do the Bengals respond after the defense forces a three-and-out? Interception. The fault was arguable; Lardarius Webb essentially wrestled the football out of Marvin Jones' grasp.
Either way, Cincinnati's defense shoves the Ravens offense by forcing another three-and-out.
However, with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter, Dalton stepped back and rainbow'ed the football 40 yards to A.J. Green, who had to battle two defenders but maintained a juggling act for an eventual 43-yard completion. However, the Bengals were unable to take advantage of the play after Dalton badly floats a pass on an out-route on third and 11.
BENGALS FINALLY MOUNT A COMEBACK
Not only was the defense doing tremendous work to keep Cincinnati in the game and holding Baltimore to only 17 points, Terence Newman picked off Joe Flacco with 12:44 remaining in the fourth quarter. Including a fourth down conversion on a fake draw and quarterback keeper, the Bengals scored their first touchdown on Giovani Bernard's beautiful 18-yard screen pass, reducing Baltimore's deficit with 8:22 remaining in the game.
The Ravens responded with a ten-play possession, but it was the tenth that had the greatest impact. As Joe Flacco is looking for options on third and ten with 4:12 remaining in the fourth, Carlos Dunlap nudges the quarterback's arm just enough for him to lose the football.
ANDY DALTON KICKS MOMENTUM IN THE NUTS, PART II
Five plays into Dunlap's forced fumble, Andy Dalton badly overthrew A.J. Green, intercepted by James Ihedigbo at Baltimore's 12-yard line.
VINNY REY'S IMPACT
Backup linebacker Vinny Rey generated three quarterback sacks, three passes defensed, an interception and a team-leading 13 tackles.