Familiarity with someone, be it an ally or an adversary, usually comes up with interesting results when coming face-to-face. Not everyone can relate to that personally, depending on your profession, work environment and/or personal life, but it definitely rings true in football. Case in point--this Sunday's re-match between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.
Marvin Lewis, the longtime coach in the Queen City, was once a beloved assistant coach in Baltimore when they won the Super Bowl. Being a defensive coordinator for the Ravens is almost an automatic ticket to becoming an NFL head coach at some point (see Ryan, Rex, Pagano and Chuck), and rightfully so because of the brand of play on that side of the ball.
Lewis is often a victim of criticism--most of it earned, some not--but if there is one thing he knows how to do, it's beating his former employers. Sporting a 14-10 record against the Ravens, Lewis' Bengals have pulled out wins in improbable fashion. That's not to say that the pendulum hasn't swung against them, as the Ravens have won their share of wacky games as well.
Given the absolutely nutty ending to Sunday's game, we decided to take a look at this rivalry during Lewis' 12-year tenure in Cincinnati and highlight some of the best ones in recent history. Buckle up.
October 19th, 2003, Cincinnati, OH, Ravens 26, Bengals 34: The Bengals were cruising to a 27-7 lead midway through the third quarter, thanks to some big plays by Jon Kitna. As the Bengals let off of the gas pedal, the Ravens began surging over the next quarter-plus of play. Kitna hit Peter Warrick for a 21-yard touchdown, that put the game at 34-10, but it wasn't over.
Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller hit wideout Travis Taylor for a 73-yard touchdown and led another touchdown drive with just over a minute to go. Two-point conversions after each made it a one-possession game at 34-26 and Baltimore lined up for an onside kick. It was recovered, but linebacker Bart Scott was called for a penalty and the Bengals gained possession with just over a minute to go and melted the clock.
December 5th, 2004, Baltimore, MD, Bengals 27, Ravens 26: One could label this one "Carson's Arrival". It was a dreary day in Maryland for the Bengals, both in terms of weather and the outlook of the game and it didn't look promising as the third quarter rolled on. Down 13-3, Carson Palmer threw a pass to Chad Johnson, but it was intercepted by Ed Reed. Ever the wild card, Reed had the ball knocked out on the return by Bengals tight end Tony Stewart, only to have it picked up by Ravens cornerback Chris McCalister. He returned it the rest of the 64 yards for a score and a 20-3 lead. That, was seemingly that.
On the ensuing drive, the Bengals were stalled, but were aided by a B.J. Sams muffed punt. The Bengals dove on it and Palmer hit Chad Johnson for a 13-yard touchdown catch. After a Ravens three-and-out, Palmer relied on T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a couple of big plays between the 20s and then found Johnson again on a beautiful pass over the corner and away from Reed's range.
The Ravens weren't done though, as they kicked a field goal to make it 23-17. Palmer once again led the offense down the field, this team hitting "Housh" in the end zone for a touchdown to take a lead. An excessive celebration penalty was called on No.84 and the Ravens were given good field position. They used it to kick yet another field goal and claim the 26-24 lead with about 1:40 left in the game. A 32-yard completion to Housmandzadeh, an 11-yarder to Matt Schobel and a 22-yard dart to Johnson and they had Shayne Graham trot out for the 24-yard try. 27-26 Bengals.
November 5th, 2006, Baltimore, MD, Bengals 20, Ravens 26: It was a back-and forth match between Palmer and Steve McNair that afternoon, that mostly began in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati was facing a 23-10 deficit as the fourth quarter began, but quickly made the game interesting. With just over a minute off of the fourth quarter clock, Palmer sailed a 71-yard bomb to Chris Henry that he fumbled as he was tackled. The Bengals challenged the ruling and it was overturned, giving the Bengals the ball back. Running back Rudi Johnson promptly punched it in the end zone, cutting the lead to 23-17.
After an exchange of stalled drives and field goals, the Bengals were given the ball with just over three minutes and were stopped on three downs, complete with a Houshmadzadeh emotional explosion that led to a personal foul. Even still, the Bengals had a chance to drive for the winning touchdown with about 20 seconds left, but Palmer sailed an interception that ended the game.
Monday, September 10th, 2007, Cincinnati, OH, Ravens 20, Bengals 27: It was another field goal-fest under the bright lights of Paul Brown Stadium that night. Cincinnati was clinging to a 12-10 lead after halftime and was in desperate need of a big play, seeing as how the offense seemed incapable of it that night. Enter linebacker Landon Johnson. Defensive end Robert Geathers sacked McNair, forcing a fumble that Landon Johnson returned 34 yards for a touchdown and the Bengals were in business.
After some relatively boring football for another quarter, Bengals punter Kyle Larson was set to kick the ball back to the Ravens. Needing a spark themselves, they sent Reed back deep to return. The move paid off to the tune of a 63-yard touchdown, giving Baltimore a 20-19 lead. Game on.
Geathers had his second big play of the night with an interception of McNair that was challenged, but upheld. It led to a Chad Johnson touchdown reception and Rudi Johnson two point conversion, putting the Bengals up 27-20. Baltimore got the ball with just under five minutes to play and Kyle Boller under center. He methodically moved his team up the field all the way to the Bengals' two-yard line to tie it up with just over a minute left. But, Boller threw a pass that was tipped and inexplicably intercepted by Michael Myers (not he of Halloween or Austin Powers fame) and sealed it for the Bengals.
Sunday, September 7th, 2008, Baltimore, MD, Bengals 10, Ravens 17: The Ravens were starting a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco, while the Bengals were looking to get back to their 2005 playoff form in the 2008 opener. This one was pretty ugly, and maybe even a bit dull through the first three quarters, where the Ravens led 17-3 at the onset.
With the Bengals defense exhausted from the ineptitude of the offensive unit all day, they rallied to make a big play when it was sorely needed. Linebacker Rashad Jeanty forced a fumble from Ray Rice and Johnathan Joseph was there to scoop it up. The Bengals' corner took it 65 yards for a score and got them right back in it. Cincinnati had the ball and was moving with about seven minutes remaining and faced a fourth and one. In what was to be a microcosm for the entire season, Chris Perry was stuffed at the Ravens' 25 and the Bengals turned it over on downs.
They still had a chance though: hold Baltimore, even if they grabbed a first down or two and get the ball back. Unfortunately, the defense was gassed and allowed the Ravens to hog the ball for 13 plays with four first downs. Baltimore was able to kneel on the ball and get out of there with a win. The Bengals ended up going 4-11-1 on the year.
Sunday, October 11th, 2009, Baltimore, MD, Bengals 17, Ravens 14: Surely "The Cardiac Cats" couldn't do it again, could they? Cincinnati had just come off of back-to-back thrillers against Pittsburgh and Cleveland and headed to Baltimore in a murderer's row portion of the schedule. After a first quarter filled with missed field goals and punts, Ed Reed struck again as he stepped in front of a Palmer pass to Chad Johnson and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. Ouch. One Graham field goal and the score at half was 7-3 Ravens.
The first action of the second half didn't come until a minute left in the third with a pretty 28-yard scamper for a touchdown by Cedric Benson. Both teams exchanged punts and then it was Baltimore's turn to answer. As he often did with Rice, Flacco dumped the ball off to his running back and allowed him to take it 48 yards for a go-ahead score. It was 14-10 with seven minutes left and things weren't looking promising for Cincinnati, though they got one last shot for the win with just over two minutes left.
Palmer dinked and dunked his way down the field, using a combination of running back Brian Leonard and wide receivers Chad Johnson and Chris Henry. Eleven plays later, Palmer had the offense at the Ravens' 3-yard line with about 30 seconds left. He darted a ball to Andre Caldwell for the win and the Bengals won a huge one in dramatic fashion for the third consecutive week. It was a great moment for a team that was mourning the passing of Vivki Zimmer, wife of Mike Zimmer, earlier that week.
Sunday, November 20th, 2011, Baltimore, MD, Bengals 24, Ravens 31: The Bengals were busy ushering in the Andy Dalton era with surprising success, but weren't winning games against the NFL's big boys. The first half featured some nice touchdowns by running backs of each team and a long Anquan Boldin touchdown reception. After a stinging last-second field goal before the half, the Bengals responded well with a Benson touchdown run on their first possession in the third quarter, cutting it to 14-17.
Unfortunately for Dalton and the Bengals, the turnovers started taking their toll. Jimmy Smith picked off a pass that he took to the Bengals' two-yard-line that was subsequently capped by a Rice touchdown run. On the next possession, Dalton threw another interception and the Ravens didn't even blink before attempting a kill shot. They succeeded with a 38-yard bomb to Torrey Smith.
But, as he has shown in his time in the league, Dalton brushed off his mistakes and led the Bengals to a comeback. He hit Caldwell for a 49-yard touchdown and then hit Jermaine Gresham for another that put the score at 31-27 before the extra point. Inexplicably, the call was overturned on a replay as the ball came out of Gresham's hands well after he caught the ball, possessed it and was pushed out of bounds. The Bengals settled for a field goal, making it 31-24 instead. With one last gasp effort for a tie with about two and half minutes left, Dalton drove the Bengals down to the Ravens' 17-yard line. Pernell McPhee sacked Dalton on fourth down to end it with 33 seconds left.
Sunday, November 10th, 2013, Baltimore, MD, Bengals 17, Ravens 20 (OT): If one had watched this game through the first half and thought that it would have been decided in overtime, they would have laughed. The Bengals offense hit a trifecta in the first two quarters by turning the ball over, not converting a fourth down try and missing a field goal. The results led to the team being down 17-0 at the midway point.
With only a field goal under their belt to feel good about in the third quarter, Cincinnati's back was against the proverbial wall. Early in the fourth quarter, Dalton engineered a drive that was cultivated by spreading the ball out and Ravens defensive penalties. He ultimately dumped a ball off to Giovani Bernard, who took it 18 yards for a score.
The Ravens, leading 17-10 and looking to milk the clock, got the ball with about eight minutes left and began marching for ten plays. Carlos Dunlap forced a fumble on a sack of Flacco, recovered by James Harrison, but the Bengals squandered the opportunity. Cincinnati got the ball one last time with about a minute and a half left and Dalton went to work. An Elvis Dumervil sack followed some positive plays, but the Bengals were faced with a Hail Mary situation. With two seconds left, Dalton sailed a ball in the direction of multiple Bengals wideouts. It was tipped and landed in the cozy arms of one A.J. Green. Overtime.
The Bengals received and started using the momentum from the Hail Mary to move the ball. They reached the Ravens' 33-yard line and were faced with a game-deciding fourth and two. The Bengals hemmed and hawed about a 50-yard field goal try by Mike Nugent in rough conditions and opted to go for it. Unfortunately, the play netted minus-eleven yards to Bernard and the Ravens took over. Cincinnati couldn't recover and Justin Tucker hit the game winning field goal.
As you can see, the two exciting games this year are just the most recent chapter in this rivalry. Expect the unexpected in the years to come with these two teams.