The play most fans will likely recall during Cincinnati’s 31-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in week 11, will be the Jermaine Gresham non-touchdown in the fourth quarter. Though he caught the pass by any reasonable definition regarding the act of catching a football, Gresham lowered his left hand outside the field of play, balancing himself out. Problem was that the football was in his left hand, which slightly moved into the palm of his hand while pressed against the turf, causing officials to rule the play incomplete. Mike Nugent converted the 24-yard field goal to reduce Baltimore’s lead to seven.
While it was a big reversal, it wasn’t a death blow by any means. Baltimore picked up a first down on their ensuing possession, but eventually punted the football back to Cincinnati with 2:03 remaining in the game. Andy Dalton drove the Bengals to Baltimore’s seven-yard line before an intentional grounding and quarterback sack ended Cincinnati’s final act in their attempted comeback.
Granted the touchdown by Gresham enables Cincinnati to kick a chip-shot field goal to send the game into overtime. But the truth is Cincinnati was sloppy with the football, turning the football over three times. They registered 56 yards of offense on 22 plays in the second quarter, while allowing 14 points on 161 yards.
Yet Cincinnati’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens followed a similar template used all season. After jumping out to an early first quarter lead, the offense momentarily slept with the fishes in the second quarter before resuscitating in the third quarter, fully charged with a clean bill of health in the fourth. But by that time, Baltimore's lead, and most importantly the clock, became the devil in disguise.
After both teams exchanged punts to start the game, the Bengals went on an 82-yard drive on seven plays, capped by Cedric Benson’s seven-yard touchdown with 8:22 remaining in the first quarter. Cincinnati’s next six possessions ended with five punts and an interception while the Baltimore Ravens reduced Cincinnati’s first quarter lead into an eventual 31-14 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati will get their opportunity for a rematch this weekend, hosting the Ravens in the regular season finale that has "win and you’re in" implications for the 2011 NFL Playoffs. Only this time the offense can't shutdown in the second quarter and the team can't turn the football over three times (including a turnover on downs) in the second half.