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Bengals leap out in front, keep Ravens from coming back in 34-23 win on Thursday Night Football

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A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and Andy Dalton picked the Ravens’ defense apart in the first half, while rookie pass rusher Sam Hubbard put the pressure on Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens, still bitter about getting knocked out of the playoffs by last minute heroics last December, visited Paul Brown Stadium in search of revenge on Thursday Night Football.

Fresh off of a thumping of the Bills, the Ravens looked to do the same to the Bengals.

They didn’t.

The Ravens kept it interesting, but the Bengals kept Baltimore at arm’s length to win the game 34-23. That happened to be the same score the Bengals beat the Colts by in Week 1.

THE BENGALS ARE 2-0!

A.J. Green has absolutely dominated the Ravens in the past, totalling 48 receptions for 817 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games against the Ravens prior to Thursday night. Green picked up where he left off, finding the end zone three times on his first three catches. He ended the night with 5 receptions, 69 yards, and three scores.

Fellow receiver Tyler Boyd put a dagger in the heart of Ravens’ fans last season and continued on his path of destruction with a first-half touchdown of his own. Those four touchdowns made for the second time Dalton has had a four-touchdown half; the last time he did it was Week 8 of the 2013 season against the Jets.

Boyd matched his career high in receiving yards with 91—tying his total from last season’s finale in Baltimore.

Sam Hubbard had a sensational game, making up for his lack of playing time in the season opener. The rookie defensive linemen had four tackles, two for a loss and one for an 11-yard sack in the first half alone. Geno Atkins quietly added two sacks of his own.

Both starting safeties, Jessie Bates and Shawn Williams, had interceptions in the game, which is what Teryl Austin has been trying to manufacture since being named defensive coordinator this offseason. Williams also had a forced fumble to put the game on ice in the fourth quarter.

The game started slowly, with each team going three-an-out on their first drive. Rookie safety Jessie Bates got his first career interception on the Ravens’ second drive and returned it to their 16-yard line.

After several plays in the red zone, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green helped the Bengals secure the first lead of the game. From the four-yard line, Dalton rolled out to the right and faded the ball to Green in the back corner of the end zone. Randy Bullock’s extra point made the score 7-0 with 10:35 left in the first quarter.

On the next drive, Giovani Bernard took over as the lead rusher while Joe Mixon was being evaluated in the locker room for a knee injury. Bernard logged 19 total yards on two touches in Mixon’s absence. On third down, Dalton rifled a short pass to Green, who broke several tackles and evaded the defense all the way to the end zone. The touchdown pass went for 32 yards, 29 of which were on the ground after the catch. Bullock converted the extra point, so the Bengals were up 14-0 with 6:33 left in the first quarter.

Mixon re-entered the game on the next drive and carried the ball four times for 21 yards, while Tyler Boyd had a nice drive as well with 33 yards on two catches. Dalton finished off the drive with a touchdown pass to (take a wild guess) Green from seven yards out. Bullock made the extra point despite a delay of game penalty, and the Bengals were way out in front 21-0 with 13:02 remaining in the second quarter.

In the first 17 minutes of the game, the Bengals were completely crushing the Ravens. Joe Flacco was having a disappointing night, going only two for five with 21 yards and one interception. The Bengals, meanwhile, had run twice as many plays as the Ravens, more than half starting on the Raven’s side of the 50-yard line.

The Ravens picked things up on their next drive, however, thanks in large part to a 45-yard pass to John Brown that was close to being Bates’ second interception of the game. The catch got the Ravens close to the Bengals’ end zone where Buck Allen scored on a one-yard run. Justin Tucker converted the extra point, and the Ravens were on the board, 21-7 with 8:20 left in the first half.

The Bengals answered the Ravens’ touchdown with a score of their own. Boyd added 53 yards to help move the Bengals to the red zone and capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown catch. Bullock’s extra point was good, and the Bengals were full throttle, 28-7 with 2:58 remaining in the half.

The Ravens would have one more chance to score with 62 seconds left in the half. A questionable pass interference call on Dre Kirkpatrick in the end zone helped the Ravens get to the one-yard line, where rookie tight end Mark Andrews caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Flacco with eight seconds left in the half. The Bengals’ lead shrunk to 28-14 as they headed into the locker room.

Following a punt and a 25-yard pass to Maxx Williams, the Ravens cut into their deficit with a 55-yard field goal with 12:30 left in the third quarter. When they Bengals got the ball back, they were starting to feel the pressure with the Ravens creeping back into the game, now only ahead 28-17. Things were starting to get scary.

The Bengals’ inability to cover tight ends reared its ugly head in the fourth quarter as the Ravens kept threatening to score. Flacco kept chipping away at the defense until he made it to the 21-yard line, where he threw the ball up to Brown. The receiver beat Dre Kirkpatrick for the jump ball in the end zone. The Ravens failed to convert the two-point conversion, so they only added six points. But now down by only one score, 28-23, the Ravens were slowly making their way back into the game with 9:35 to go.

The Bengals offense really struggled in the second half after scoring four touchdowns on their first five drives of the game.

They finally found their rhythm again and moved the ball down the field, highlighted by a 21-yard run from Mixon, who entered the game again after leaving twice with knee injuries. John Ross grabbed his first ball of the game to set up a 28-yard Randy Bullock field goal. With 2:59 left on the clock, the Bengals were now up by eight points, 31-23.

The Ravens had one last push to get a touchdown and an extra point, but Shawn Williams forced his second turnover of the game. Flacco rolled out to the right, but didn’t feel the blitzing Williams coming from behind and crashing into his throwing arm. Williams forced the ball loose and Kirkpatrick recovered the fumble at the Ravens’ 29-yard line with 2:42 left in the game.

The Bengals couldn’t get a first down, but forced the Ravens to burn their timeouts in a drive that ended in a 40-yard Bullock field goal. With 2:25 left in the game, the Ravens were down 34-23 with no timeouts left.

This was too much for the Ravens to overcome, and the score would hold as the Bengals held onto victory.

The Bengals are now 2-0 and have a week and a half before traveling to Carolina to face the Panthers in Week 3.