What a win.
There was growing fear as the third quarter offered a change in momentum, where the Bengals' offense lacked rhythm and the defense horribly missed tackles. Cincinnati opened with a 14-0 lead in the first half. Baltimore scored 17 unanswered points, including a C.J. Mosley fumble returned for a touchdown. Then Baltimore and Cincinnati exchanged video game possessions, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green, helping Cincinnati reclaim the lead. Baltimore responded with an 89-yard touchdown drive and Cincinnati answered with their own 80-yard touchdown.
At the end of the day, Andy Dalton completed 20 passes for 383 yards passing, scoring four touchdowns (three in the air, one on the ground) and finished with a passer rating of 122.3. A.J. Green was a primary target, as he should be, securing 227 yards receiving on 10 receptions, including two fourth quarter touchdowns that twice gave Cincinnati a lead.
All seemed lost after the Mosley touchdown return, enabled by an Elvis Dumervil strip-sack. Baltimore took a 17-14 lead at this point. How did the Bengals respond? With a beautifully anticipated throw by A.J. Green, who fought through tackles to score on an 80-yard touchdown. Baltimore crafted an 89-yard touchdown drive, reclaiming a 24-21 lead. Cincinnati responded with a six-play touchdown drive that spanned 80 yards, highlighted by a one-handed Marvin Jones 31-yard reception and capped by A.J. Green's second touchdown reception.
Yet, Cincinnati held impressive momentum early. For the second time during Cincinnati's first three games, the Bengals have scored during their opening possession - and scored first during all three games this year. Sure, the Ravens helped with three penalties, but Andy Dalton floated a 32-yarder to Marvin Jones and then scored on a seven-yard scramble with 7:20 remaining in the first quarter.
Cincinnati expanded their lead with 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter when Adam Jones undercut Kyle Juszczyk for an interception. Three plays later, Cincinnati took a 14-0 lead with 12:23 remaining on Marvin Jones' 16-yard touchdown reception.
Baltimore, clearly desperate not to enter week four with a winless record, called a fake punt with 11:09 remaining in the second from their own 27-yard line. The up-back, Anthony Levine, now the ball-carrier, bent around the left edge and found room. Cedric Peerman stuffed Levine a yard shy of the first down marker; however, Levine fumbled it and recovered it beyond the first down marker, allowing the Ravens to convert. After generating another first down, this time a five-yard Steve Smith reception over Leon Hall, the Ravens were eventually forced to punt after Taliaferro lost two yards from an impressively penetrating defensive front.
In the meantime, A.J. Green, who struggled early with penalties and dropped passes (that were nearly picked), came alive with 7:35 remaining in the second quarter. In addition to a 31-yard reception, Green posted five receptions during this possession, reaching the 11-yard line. Cincinnati settled at the two-yard line with two minutes remaining, needing to generate a yard on fourth down to convert.
Dalton faked the handoff and rolled out to the right. Finding his options closed, Dalton improvised to the left and lobbed the football to Tyler Eifert, who fought his way into the endzone. Unfortunately, the officials viewed the result differently. Following a mandatory review, the officials reversed the call, labeling it an incomplete pass because Eifert lost the football during the process of completing the pass, despite having already crossed the goalline.
Eventually the first half concluded with the Bengals maintaining a 14-0 lead.
Cincinnati opened the second half with an impressive eight-play possession, driving from their own 29-yard line to the Ravens 10-yard line with 10:43 remaining in the third quarter. Unfortunately, Dalton blindly floated the football towards A.J. Green, near the back right pylon, with cornerback Jimmy Smith forcing Green to the outside. Smith's interception prevented Cincinnati from scoring in the redzone for a second time.
Let's recap: At this point in the game, the last three possessions for the Bengals: "Incomplete" pass to Tyler Eifert, questionable clock management at the end of the first half and an interception by Jimmy Smith on an air-head throw to A.J. Green in the endzone.
The Ravens are still in the game, and they capitalized on it... with Cincinnati providing an assist every step of the way.
With 6:37 remaining in the third quarter, Baltimore had fourth-and-five from midfield. Quarterback Joe Flacco swung the football toward Steve Smith near the first down marker. Reggie Nelson, with an opportunity to tackle Smith before (or around) the first down marker, missed. Emmanuel Lamur and George Iloka also missed their tackles, allowing Smith to score on a 50-yard touchdown, reducing Cincinnati's lead 14-7.
Cincinnati's second half struggles continued. Even when the Ravens are facing a third-and-21 situations from their own 25-yard line, the Bengals defense failed to hold Baltimore; Flacco hit Marlon Brown on a 21-yard reception at the first down marker. Several plays later, an incomplete Joe Flacco pass led to a Chris Carter roughing the passer. An Adam Jones missed tackle allowed Nick Boyle to convert a 6-7 yard pass into a 13-yard reception to the Bengals' 10-yard line. Cincinnati held but Baltimore reduced the Bengals lead, 14-10, with a field goal.
With 7:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, Elvis Dumervil sacked Dalton and forced the fumble. Linebacker C.J. Mosley returned the fumble 41 yards for a touchdown, giving the Ravens a 17-14 lead.
Cincinnati faced their first deficit of the season.
How do they respond?
With an 80-yard touchdown throw to A.J. Green.
A.J. Green with an 80 yard touchdown!!! Bengals back in the lead, 21-17 https://t.co/oM2TWrxgUX— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 27, 2015
Part II of the A.J. Green 80 yard touchdown reception. https://t.co/uGuUZWuGwx— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 27, 2015
Cincinnati returns home this Sunday to host the Kansas City Chiefs.