The Ravens and the Steelers. Two teams that played in last year's AFC Championship game. Two teams that we knew we had to beat this year if we were going to make things happen. If the Bengals were to make a playoff run, a scenario in which many Bengals fans didn't feel confident heading into the season, they'd have to go through Pittsburgh and Baltimore. And through the first five games this year, the Bengals beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore. And if you really wanted to cake on that grand feeling of supporting a team that starts the season 4-1, as opposed to 0-5 last year, then know this. It took a fluke play to put a blemish on our record. How does that feel?
A couple of big-picture notes after the Bengals win over the Ravens Sunday.
- Even though the Bengals only have a one game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, until both teams face and beat the Bengals again, Cincinnati will hold the head-to-head tie-breaker, essentially giving them a two game division lead.
- The Bengals have won seven of their past eight games.
- The Bengals have won four of their past six games at Baltimore.
- The Bengals have won four straight division games dating back to last year.
- Johnathan Joseph has three interceptions in three straight games.
- Marvin Lewis is 8-5 against the Baltimore Ravens.
- Carson Palmer is 7-3 when starting against the Baltimore Ravens.
GAME BALL: First things first. Our game ball. We haven't instituted our player of the game awards this year because we got tired of doing it for a team that started last season with an eight-game losing streak. After that, it was forgotten. And I can't promise we won't forget it about again this year. S thus our first game ball award will be given. Marvin Lewis gave Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer the game ball after Sunday's win. I thought it was appropriate that we do the same. While going through a loss that most of us would have no idea how to deal with, Zimmer and his defense took it to a top-five ranked offense. We compare the Ravens averages coming into Sunday's game and the Ravens numbers on Sunday.
|Points Scored||31.0 (3rd)||14*|
|Yards Total||413.5 (3rd)||257|
|* Only scored seven points on offense|
A story about how a defense doesn't have to be flashy. Just reliable. The Ravens were driving the football during their first drive of the game. The ease in which the Ravens moved the ball was troubling. Eight-yard pass to Heap. Four-yard run by Rice. Nine-yard scramble by Flacco. Six-yard pass to Rice. Five-yard pass to Heap. Nine-yard pass to McClain. Twenty-one yard pass to Rice. These were chunk-yardage plays that quickly tires a defense. After Rey Maualuga tackled Rice for a one-yard loss at the Bengals 14-yard line, and after Flacco threw an incomplete pass, Johnathan Joseph jumped Flacco's third-down pass for a huge interception at the one-yard line (we talk about this later).
The defense bent. They bent hard. Break? Who the hell do you think you are? Haven't you seen this defense? Iron eventually breaks. The Bengals defense? We'll see.
Baltimore's offense elected to go with three straight running plays to Ray Rice on the following drive. Sorry. Bad trick in an attempt to out-think us. Ravens go three-and-out. Ravens punt. Even though the Ravens didn't go three-and-out on the following drive, the did punt. After Todd Heap caught an 11-yard pass that converted a third-and-eight, Robert Geathers was credited with a quarterback sack (though we know the truth Fanene, you should at least get half). Chinedum Ndukwe nearly forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. However, the officials called it down, Ravens ball. Personally, I feel if the Ravens felt screwed because of bad officiating, then we could always say that the Bengals were screwed out of a defensive touchdown. Review or not. I still thought his knee was going down when the football started coming out. But I won't complain. Because we won. Flacco threw an incomplete pass after Antwan Odom jumped offsides and the Ravens punt.
This was the theme all day. The Ravens offense was nearly shutdown all game by the Bengals defense. Of the Ravens ten offensive possession, they picked up more than one first down on only three drives. Comparatively speaking, the Bengals had 11 possessions and five drives with two first downs or more.
After consecutive plays that picked up 27 yards on the Ravens third possession, Flacco was sacked on second down, then threw a six-yard pass to Rice that came up two yards short. Ravens punt. Starting the second half, After completing a five-yard pass to convert a third down, the Ravens offense stalled with a two-yard pass to Heap, three-yard run by Rice and a third-down incomplete pass. Ravens punt. Then they went three and out.
Bengals rolling. Ravens stalling.
With 13:49 left in the game, the Ravens finally put together a drive that ended with a touchdown. Ray Rice caught a short pass, forced a few missed tackles and ran down the sidelines to score on a 48-yard touchdown pass. After that... punt. After that... watch Bengals take the lead with :27 left in the game and throw an interception on desperation pass to end the game.
It was the Bengals defense that had to win this game. Mike Zimmer and the Bengals defense came to shutdown the Ravens offense. Even though they allowed seven points on defense, they did exactly what they needed to do for the Bengals to win Sunday.
It doesn't always start as scripted. It's not that the Bengals are forced to come from behind every week because the opposition puts them in that position. Most of the time, it's because the Bengals simply screw up. I know it's simplistic view of things. Other than the Steelers exploding for 13 points a few weeks ago, when has the Bengals offense not shot themselves in the foot, eventually taking on a deficit to overcome? For example, when the Bengals drove 12 plays for 60 yards to start the game, Brad St. Louis had a bad snap which disrupted Shayne Graham's timing on a 31-yard field goal attempt. Granted, it's special teams and not offense. Still, the point remains. On the ensuing possession, Carson Palmer threw to Ed Reed, who returned it for a touchdown. They converted a field goal on the next possession, when they had a first down at the Ravens four-yard line. After that, the Bengals punt, but only because Daniel Coats let a pass go through his hands that would have brought the Bengals well within field goal range. Speaking of which, if Chase Coffman is reading this, please become really good... and soon. Chad Ochocinco fumbles on the next possession to end the first half.
|12||60||Missed Field Goal|
The Ravens are a very good football team and I don't want to take anything away from them. But if the Bengals offense played mistake free football, there's a good chance that this game isn't nearly as close as the score would indicate. Over confidence? Homerism? Can it be disputed?
He might not get a lot of playing time, but Chris Henry makes the most of it. It wasn't the fact that Chris Henry only had three receptions on Sunday. No, of course not. With 11:30 left in the second quarter, Carson Palmer takes the shotgun snap on third-and-three at their own 23-yard line. Palmer unleashes the pass to the left, slightly underthrown. Chris Henry fights for the football, spins around and takes off. Henry was eventually caught from behind, tackled at the four-yard line. The Bengals wouldn't move the ball any further, after two incomplete passes and a quarterback sack. Shayne Graham converts the 32-yard field goal to put their first points on the board.
Let me return you to the original point. Carson Palmer just threw a 73-yard completion. This is Palmer's longest completion since a 74-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson on November 12, 2006 against the San Diego Chargers. Note: He was Johnson in 2006.
You don't have to catch the football to be effective (not a Laveranues Coles dedication).We could say that Cedric Benson ultimately had the best performance of the day. We could say that Carson Palmer had the best play of the day. But what about Chad Ochocinco? In the first series, Chad caught three passes for 46 yards receiving. All three receptions converted first downs; including two on third down; including one on third-and-15. Ochocinco caught a 10-yard pass setting up Benson's 28-yard touchdown run. What about what would become the game winning touchdown drive? Oddly enough, he didn't caught a pass. However, three passes went his way and two of them ended up being penalties that sustained the drive. Think Ray Lewis and Ochocinco are such pals now?
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water. Actually, it's never safe to go back into the water. That's why you set the water on fire (a tribute to Nightmare on Elm Street). It was a great opening game drive, moving the ball well enough on the ground and completing passes on third and however long it takes. However, the drive did stall on Baltimore's 14-yard line when Benson was dropped for a five-yard loss. For some reason, the Bengals ran the ball again for two yards setting up a third-and-13. Palmer, in shotgun, scrambles up in the pocket and picks up another eight yards. You crazy legged mother... Shayne Graham sets up for an easy 32-yard field goal. So easy, one could announce, "My dear sweet love, I'm going to the refresher. Please pour me some earl gray tea." This is not a re-enactment. Rather it's to prove that life is good. We just scored on the opening drive to take a commanding 3-0 lead over our division co-leaders.
What's that, my dear sweet love?
Oh. The snap was high, but Kevin Huber got it down. Graham stutter-stepped because of the bad snap and when he tried to kick it, it was both a bad kick (too low) and tipped by a Ravens defender. The Bengals moved the ball, coming away with no points because of a bad snap that resulted in Shayne Graham's timing being disrupted just enough to falter on an easy kick. I agree. St. Louis long-snapping on place kicking attempts is an absolute nightmare. It's horrifying. Discussions were being made that perhaps we should go for two-point conversions and kiss field goal attempts good bye. As Brad St. Louis says, in homeage to Scream, "I'll be right back."
With 1:01 left in the third quarter, the Bengals drove 84 yards on nine plays, which ended on a Cedric Benson 28-yard touchdown run. The room went quiet. The air still. The tension so strong, that I lost three pounds. Brad St. Louis' snap was so high, the flight controller had to tap on his radar when an unidentified flying object appeared for a brief second. Luckily, Baltimore had a defensive player lined up over the center and the Bengals were allowed to retry the attempt. Perfect snap. Perfect hold. Perfect kick. See. Not so hard. The Bengals would score a game-winning touchdown later in the game. St. Louis' snap was perfect and the Bengals converted back-to-back kicks, which is a victory in its own right.
Unfortunately, St. Louis' string of perfect snaps could mean the Bengals will give him another shot. That's kind of the season this year isn't it? No matter who it is. When they go down, make a bad play, the team as a whole picks 'em up, recovers, and wins football games. This my friends, is your 2009 Cincinnati Bengals.
Offensive player -- not named Carson Palmer -- of the game: Typically I would say Carson Palmer for engineering a game-winning touchdown drive. I would also nominate Chad Ochocinco for several big non-touchdown plays. Or Andre Caldwell for the game-winning touchdown reception. I'm going with Cedric Benson. Even though Benson was the first running back that recorded the first 100-yard rushing performance in 40 games against the Ravens, but he also recorded six first downs and a 28-yard touchdown run to take the lead in the third quarter.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Rey Maualuga led the Bengals with eight tackles, two for loss. Dhani Jones and Robert Geathers (though Jonathan Fanene actually knocked Joe Flacco down) recorded sacks. Leon Hall had a game-sealing interception. So you pick. Johnathan Joseph needs a bit of recognition though. The Ravens take their opening drive from their own 23-yard line to the Cincinnati 15-yard line in 10 plays. After a Matt Birk false start, Joe Flacco looked for Todd Heap about a yard short of the endzone near the right pylon. Joseph noticed the route, let the wide receiver he was covering cross the field and trailed Heap. Flacco threw it up and Joseph cut off the route for the interception. Why is this important? If Heap catches the pass, he likely scores the touchdown and the Bengals allow a touchdown on the Ravens opening possession, which we've seen too often sets a tone. Instead, the Ravens don't score any points and, well, Palmer throws a pick-six to Ed Reed on the next possession. Balance is a bitch sometimes.