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Bengals vs Ravens: Bengals reclaim first place in 27-24 win over Baltimore

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It was one of the weirder fourth quarters... ever. The Bengals literally tried to dump an eventual victory, but reclaimed the win late in the fourth quarter, completing the season sweep against Baltimore.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The last time that Cincinnati won a regular season game, they had just beaten the Tennessee Titans 33-7 in a blowout that defined an unexpected promotion as the league's best team. Well, not specifically. It was part of the usual sports debate that fills those boring midweek moments. Cincinnati's win over the Titans happened on September 21, 2014. It was week three, seven days before their all-too-soon bye week.

Since then the Bengals defense had crashed, giving up over 100 points in three games. The offense, who scored 37 points in week six's tie against Carolina, was shutout during Indianapolis' 27-0 win last week. Rumors of a Jermaine Gresham trade started. Mike Nugent replaced... well, everyone... as enemy No. 1 (which for Bengals fans is an honored spot since we're more likely to blame and yell at players than honor them... we expect the best).

Cincinnati literally went from Super Bowl contenders to second place in the AFC North with a free-falling effect that will only crash further into the depths of divisional cellar-hood.

Today, the Bengals had Baltimore in town and, understandably so, took control and a commanding lead in the second half. Yet as things happen in Cincinnati, easy isn't a button available to them. With over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Bengals leading 20-14, Andy Dalton took the shotgun snap, faked the handoff on a read-option and sprinted around the edge for five yards and the first down. Yet on the next play, Dalton was nearly picked off on a quick attempt to Mohamed Sanu. Wisely, the Bengals called Jeremy Hill's number on second and 10 from the 44 yard-line, grabbing five yards on the attempt and setting up third and five. Dalton quickly tossed to Hill, wide open and unopposed, for 15 yards down the left sidelines. First down.

They had control.

And then lost it.

I mean, really lost it.

Leading 20-14 with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton faked the handoff and appeared headed for a bootleg to the left. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata hit Dalton, who lost the grip of the football... it was in his left hand... was he trying to throw it? Linebacker Daryl Smith scooped up the football and returned it 39 yards to the Bengals eight-yard line. Lorenzo Taliaferro easily diced through Cincinnati's defense to score an eight-yard touchdown, giving Baltimore a 21-20 lead with 6:31 remaining in the game.

On Cincinnati's next possession, Andy Dalton's pass is deflected/fumbled after Mohamed Sanu has brief possession of the football -- the official scoreboard called it an interception. Either way, Baltimore extended their lead to 24-20 with 3:59 remaining in the game.

Was it possible that Cincinnati could regain control?

Well, yes. But "control" is a matter of a perspective.

A wide open Mohamed Sanu, with defenders five yards off either side of him, hauled in the floating Andy Dalton pass down the left sidelines, reaching the Ravens 27-yard line. A few plays later, Cincinnati reached the Ravens six-yard line at the two minute warning. Jeremy Hill pounded a pair of runs to the one-yard line where Andy Dalton leaned into the endzone for a touchdown and secured a 27-24 lead.

Baltimore nearly scored on a massive touchdown but Steve Smith, who scored on the play, was called for offensive pass interference. The game eventually ended after Baltimore's fourth and 20 led to a minimal gain.

Cincinnati won 27-24, completing a season-sweep of the Baltimore Ravens.

It's the first win in 35 days. Who dey. I need a break.

BENGALS TAKE AN EARLY 7-0 LEAD

The Cincinnati Bengals had a mission. It was simple. Don't do what they did last week against the Indianapolis Colts. Be the team that won in September and not the squad that's, so far, bombed October.

More generically, pick up a first down and convert a third down opportunity, ASAP. They did just that. Following consecutive runs by Giovani Bernard to open Sunday's game, Andy Dalton kept the football on third and one, leaning forward for a five-yard gain and a first down.

Cincinnati hurried to the line of scrimmage where Dalton nearly overthrew Mohamed Sanu. Instead the receiver took flight and extended his right hand to control a forced deflection into his grasp. After a momentary juggle, Sanu secured the football to complete the 48-yard reception. Cincinnati settled inside the redzone at Baltimore's 18-yard line.

Following a quarterback sack (by Terrell Suggs, who beat Andre Smith) and a limited two-yard gain by Bernard, the Bengals converted a third and 14 on another high-throw. This time Greg Little hauled in the 21-yard reception at the Bengals one-yard line.

Two plays later, with 10:08 remaining in the first quarter, Dalton secured the football and leaned forward for the sneak. Domata Peko, practically, buried his shoulder into Dalton's back to ensure the whole immovable object debate is voided.

Bengals take a 7-0 lead on their opening possession of the game.

BENGALS DEFENSE WITH A GOALLINE STAND

Baltimore reached midfield with over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, facing a third down situation with eight yards needed to pick up the first down. Joe Flacco, facing a Guenther-schemed blitz, flips the football to Kamar Aiken in the flats. Terence Newman, who dropped an easy interception two plays earlier, makes the open-field tackle one yard shy of the first down. The Ravens convert the fourth down attempt on a Lorenzo Taliaferro three-yard run, who follows dominating blocks from Baltimore's offensive line.

Eventually Baltimore, easily pressing their attack downfield, reach Cincinnati's seven-yard line with 3:30 remaining in the first. Following a Justin Forsett five-yard run, the Ravens pounded the football, twice, eventually reaching Cincinnati's one-yard line. Instead of converting the chip-shot field goal, the Ravens go for it on fourth down. Flacco fakes the handoff, rolls out to the right and flips the football to Aiken, who is unable to secure the football.

The Bengals take over at the one.

RAVENS ON THE BOARD WITH A 45-YARD FIELD GOAL

Baltimore has third down from the Bengals 43-yard line with 12:47 remaining in the second quarter. Joe Flacco takes the shotgun snap and flips the football to Steve Smith, who reaches the Bengals 40-yard line on the three-yard pass. That should be it for this possession, Baltimore's second of the game.

Flag. Robert Geathers. Offsides.

Uh-hum.

Baltimore has third down from the Bengals 38-yard line with 12:30 remaining in the second quarter. Joe Flacco takes the shotgun snap and flips the football to Michael Campanaro, who came off the right flank on a quick slant that gained 17 yards and the first down.

Eventually the Ravens reached Cincinnati's 19-yard line, faced with another third and eight with 10:07 remaining in the second. After Flacco scanned the field for an open receiver, Geno Atkins twists the quarterback around for the sack. Justin Tucker converted the 45-yarder to put Baltimore on the scoreboard.

Cincinnati maintains a 7-3 lead with 9:15 remaining in the second quarter.

BENGALS WITH 7-6 HALFTIME LEAD

Starting from their own 33-yard line with 4:34 remaining in the first half, the Baltimore Ravens reached the Bengals 32-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the second quarter. There was a fumble forced by Geno Atkins (but recovered by Baltimore) and a Steve Smith 13-yard reception on third-and-seven.

Once Baltimore ran out of steam, Ravens place-kicker Justin Tucker crushed a 50-yard field goal, further reducing Cincinnati's advantage to one point.

Adam Jones returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bengals 21-yard line following the 30-yard return, but Cincinnati only picked up a first down before Kevin Huber's 49-yard punt rolled out of bounds at the Ravens six-yard line. Joe Flacco took a knee to conclude the first half.

Baltimore has conducted three possessions, all of which ended with Cincinnati's goalline stand and field goals of 45 and 50 yards. Cincinnati has had four possessions, and after an 80-yard touchdown drive, have punted on their ensuing three possessions.

Dalton has completed seven of eight passes for 108 yards. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have a combined 10 carries for 29 yards rushing.

LAMUR PICK AND GIOVANI TOUCHDOWN GIVES BENGALS 14-6 LEAD

Things have just gotten interesting.

Baltimore, who opened the second half with a 21-yard Kyle Juszczyk screen, had second down from their own 41-yard line with 13:54 remaining in the third. Quarterback Joe Flacco tries to squeeze the football to Torrey Smith but Emmanuel Lamur intercepts the pass and returns it five yards to the Bengals 49. It's Lamur's second interception of the season; his first was also against the Ravens in week one.

Sanu gained 26 yards on first down, reaching the Ravens 25-yard line. Cincinnati converted a third down two plays later, thanks to a defensive pass interference on an incomplete pass. Hue Jackson dialed Giovani Bernard's number twice, gaining 11 yards and reaching the Ravens three-yard line.

Following an ill-advised attempt to get Domata Peko into the flats for a touchdown reception, Giovani Bernard lept over the goalline on third down to give Cincinnati a touchdown and 14-6 lead with 9:56 remaining in the third.

ADAM JONES INTERCEPTION LEADS TO MIKE NUGENT FG AND 17-6 LEAD

Two second half possessions... two interceptions.

That's the bottom line for Cincinnati, who opened the second half with a flurry on defense. First it was Emmanuel Lamur, who picked off Flacco, leading to Giovani Bernard's touchdown and a 14-6 lead.

This time Adam Jones anticipated a slant route while Torrey Smith collided with a defender following another receiver banking towards the sidelines. It was accidental but Flacco threw directly to Adam Jones, who was covering Torrey Smith.

Cincinnati, unable to get a first down, calls upon Mike Nugent who successfully converts a 32-yard field goal... his first attempt since missing an attempt against Carolina that ended that game in a tie.

The field goal gives Cincinnati a 17-6 lead with 6:29 remaining in the third quarter.

RAVENS BOUNCE BACK WITH 79-YARD TOUCHDOWN DRIVE

Baltimore's first two possessions in the third quarter led to interceptions -- the first by Emmanuel Lamur and the second by Adam Jones. Both interceptions led to Bengals scores and a 17-6 lead by the time Baltimore opened their third second half possession, this time from the Ravens 21-yard line with 6:23.

This time, Baltimore was a bit more secure with the football.

The Ravens strung together a nine-play drive -- which included a questionable spot during Crockett Gillmore's ten-yard reception that converted a third and ten at Baltimore's 45-yard line.

Two plays later, Lorenzo Taliaferro pounded through Cincinnati's defense for 29 yards. Joe Flacco added 13 yards on a scramble, reaching the Bengals ten-yard line. Taliaferro bounced off the left tackle and scored a touchdown with 1:58 remaining in the third.

Justin Forsett easily cruised into the endzone to convert the two-point attempt, reducing Cincinnati's lead to 17-14.

MISTAKES

  • With 5:31 remaining in the second quarter, Andy Dalton converted a third-and-nine situation with a 20-yard throw to Greg Little. However, Andre Smith was called for an offensive hold and the Bengals concede the third-and-19 with a Jeremy Hill run.
  • With 11:34 remaining in the fourth, Greg Little breaks away from coverage down the right sidelines. Andy Dalton, who takes the third-and-three snap from the Ravens 15-yard line, overthrows Little, leading to an incomplete pass and a Mike Nugent field goal.

INJURIES

  • Vontaze Burfict left with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter with a knee injury. He returned two plays later to hold Baltimore on third down but ran to the lockerroom soon after. Burfict returned by Baltimore's next possession.
  • Jayson DiManche suffered a shoulder injury and was officially listed as out.
  • Ryan Hewitt also had a shoulder injury, but was listed as probable to return at the time.
  • Bengals OG Kevin Zeitler re-injured his calf and left in the fourth quarter.

INACTIVES

BENGALS RAVENS
WR A.J. Green TE Owen Daniels
LB Rey Maualuga DE Chris Canty
DT Brandon Thompson RB Bernard Pierce
RB Rex Burkhead LB Arthur Brown
OL Tanner Hawkinson CB Chykie Brown
CB Chris Lewis-Harris OL Gino Gradkowski
DE Will Clarke OL Jah Reid