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What We Learned: Bengals vs. Ravens

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We take one last look at Sundays Bengals/Ravens rematch before looking ahead to the Jaguars in week 9.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals won and are in first place

Save the talk about how "pretty" it was/wasn't, or how "they got lucky" or how they "didn't deserve to win," etc. Just like in their first matchup, the Bengals controlled the game against the Ravens for all but a few minutes, lost control, and then regained control again, just like a good team should. Regardless of how you see it, the fact of the matter is, they won. It goes down as a win. Not a win with an asterisk, just a regular old win. For a team that hadn't won a game in 32 days, they needed that win - no matter what it looked like. At 3-3-1, their season would be teetering on the brink, but at 4-2-1, they sit in first place and enter a stretch of very winnable games. Of the final 9 games, 8 of them seem very winnable (the exception is Denver).

Dalton gets all the blame and none of the credit

Despite playing a solid game, Dalton will get credited by many as "lucky" to have won that game because of his two fourth quarter turnovers. What won't be discussed is how the interception was a great throw by Dalton which Sanu should have secured - and only a great play by the defender who got the ball out. And while Dalton's fumble was a terrible decision by Dalton - he should have tucked the ball and took the sack - what won't be discussed is the fact that Andrew Whitworth let Haloti Ngata, one of the best tackles in the league, go completely untouched. If Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers played that same game, people would talk about how "clutch" they were to lead that game winning drive; how they are simply "winners;" how they are "gutsy."

Dalton, on the other hand, gets called lucky. Think of how "clutch" that third and 10 pass was to Sanu. Think of how "gutsy" it was for Dalton to call the fourth and goal sneak play. By my account, Dalton has cost the Bengals zero games in 2014, has had one bad game (Colts), has lead the Bengals on two game-winning drives (both Ravens games), one game tying drive and two go-head (should have been three) drives late in the Panthers game.

The referees made the right call

The Bengals should not have let Steve Smith, Sr. behind them (again), but the fact of the matter is that Smith pushed off and that is a penalty. If it were Smith who went down from a push, you can bet that would have been called. It was nice to see the call made the other direction.

The Ravens announcers don't know the rules of football

Listing to each respective teams' radio guys call the Steve Smith, Sr. play is rather amusing, but one thing stuck out to me when listening to the Ravens radio...their announcers don't know the rules of football. One of the guys stated that the push shouldn't matter anyway because Flacco was out of the pocket. Since when does pass interference hinge on the quarterback being in the pocket. Wow.

Mohamed Sanu is making an argument for the number two receiver job even when Marvin Jones comes back

If you were going to hand out an MVP at the mid-point of the season, it would have to go to Mohamed Sanu. The guy continues to impress with little else around him. Think about this, at the start of the season, if everyone is healthy, Sanu would have been the slot receiver and at best, the Bengals fourth receiving option (Green, Jones, Eifert) and I would argue fifth (Bernard). Yet, with Jones and Eifert out all but five minutes of the season and Green playing sparingly, Sanu has been forced into the number one receiver role and has excelled - even with Brandon Tate and Dane Sanzenbacher as his running mates. If his receiving numbers aren't good enough (on pace for 80 receptions and 1,200+ yards), he has also contributed big plays in the passing game (2/2, 68 yards, 1 touchdown) and the running game.

Geno Atkins had his first "Geno Atkins" type game - and the defense was better because of it

Coming into the game, Geno Atkins had seven tackles and zero sacks in six games - yes, you read that correctly. On Sunday, Atkins piled up four tackles, twp tackles for a loss and one sack. For the first time since his ACL tear one year ago, Atkins was disruptive and finally looked close to the "Atkins" we had come to know. When Atkins is disruptive, it makes every defensive player more effective.

Vontaze Burfict managed not to knock himself out - and the defense was better because of it

Burfict is the quarterback of this defense and the emotional leader. When Burfict is not on the field, the defense is a shell of itself. For the first time all year, Burfict started and played the entire game. And not surprising, for the first time in a while, the defense looked like a top 10 defense again. It sounds like Burfict's knee injury isn't serious, and let's hope so. The defense cannot afford to be without Burfict for an extended period of time.

The Bengals defense still concerns me

Despite an overall solid game, I am still not sold on this defense. The Bengals are still struggling with getting consistent pressure on the quarterback with four pass rushers (one sack and three quarterback hits) and the secondary again let up a huge play late - even if it was called back, the defense on the nullified touchdown was poor.

The Bengals are not very good at making sure offensive players do not get behind them at the end of games.

When holding onto a lead late in a game, the number one rule in football is "do not let anyone behind you." The Bengals have now failed at this twice in seven games - both times against the Ravens and both times losing track of Steve Smith, Sr. Yes, both times were on broken plays. And yes, the play on Sunday was brought back, but, that does not excuse the Bengals for being in that position. A well placed pass on Sunday and Smith scores another late go ahead touchdown on a play where the Bengals lost track of him. That cannot/should not happen.

The Bengals are better than the Ravens - despite what the "talking heads" will say

I had to laugh today as I heard multiple talking heads, on multiple outlets, talk about how the Ravens are still the better team and are still the team to beat in the AFC North. Apparently the Bengals beating them twice in 2014 and three of the last four times has no bearing.

John Harbaugh submitting the OPI call to the league is laughable - and proves what a whiney baby he is

The Ravens have always had a reputation for doing a lot of whining - remember how Terrell Suggs claimed the Super Bowl blackout was a conspiracy by the league to try and get the 49ers back in the game? I don't expect John Harbaugh to like the call, but submitting the OPI call to the league for review is a joke and just makes him - and the Ravens- look like babies. Every rules analyst I have heard has said it was the absolute right call - just like my eyes tell me. John Harbaugh calling it "one of the greatest plays I've ever seen" is ridiculous and proves he apparently doesn't watch much football. Instead of complaining about that call, the correct call, maybe he should talk to his $20 million quarterback about throwing the ball to the opposing team.

Joe Flacco continues to struggle against good teams

I talked about it before the game, in the Ravens two losses against the Colts and Bengals - a combined 8-4-1 record (.615) - Flacco had completed just 57 percent of his passes for a paltry 5.8 YPA, one touchdown and two interceptions, all the while producing a QBR of just 30.6. Meanwhile, in the Ravens five wins - teams with a combined 13-19-1 record (.394) - Flacco had completed 68 percent of his passes for 10.86 YPA, 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and a QBR of 88.76. This trend continued on Sunday where Flacco completed just 50 percent of his passes (17/34) for a 5.7 YPA, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a 23.6 QBR.

Jermaine Gresham is 6'5" 260 pounds and is not strong enough to hold onto a football

He didn't lose the fumble, but that is not the point. The point is that in 66 career games (4.5 seasons), Jermaine Gresham has 246 receptions and nine fumbles (six lost). For reference, below are some other tight end numbers (and A.J. Green's):

-          Jimmy Graham (69 games, 340 receptions, 4 fumbles 2 lost)

-          Gronkowski (58 games, 266 receptions, 2 fumbles, 2 lost)

-          A.J. Green (51 games, 277 receptions, 4 fumbles, 2 lost)

-          Heath Miller (same time frame - 67 games, 256 receptions, 4 fumbles, 4 lost)

What can we learn from this? Jermaine Gresham's fumble numbers are astronomically high. Gresham fumbles nearly 4 percent of the time when he catches the ball. If you were to take out receptions where he went out of bounds, went down on his own or scored a touchdown (probably 1/3 of his receptions), you are looking at a guy that fumbles nearly 10 percent of the time he is tackled...and this doesn't include the fumbles he's had overturned because he was down by contact.