Save your coin flips. We don’t need ’em.
Joe Burrow and the starters ended up playing the entire game as Anthony Brown and the Ravens kept the game competitive through the second half. But Brown committed three of the Ravens’ four turnovers, which became one of the main stories of the game. Burrow had some struggles of his own as he finished with 215 yards passing with a tough 5.1 yards per attempt.
After the Ravens took the ball first and went three-and-out, the Bengals churned out a 17-play drive for their first possession of the game. Burrow started the drive with some pocket escaping theatrics and ended it with a third down incompletion that led to an Evan McPherson field goal to give Cincinnati its first points.
Ironically, the incompletion made Burrow the most accurate quarterback of all-time, as he needed 12 attempts on the game to qualify for the all-time leaderboard.
Baltimore’s ensuing drive finished even quicker as Jessie Bates III picked off Brown to give the Bengals the ball right back at midfield. Burrow and the boys took advantage, connecting with Tyler Boyd twice on the drive, with the second reception taking the ball to the one-yard line.
Joe Mixon pounded the rock into the end zone for Cincinnati’s first touchdown and pulled out a coin to mock the NFL via celebration. 10-0 good guys.
The rout looked to be on from there. Ravens receiver Demarcus Robinson dropped a third down reception on the following drive and Mike Hilton picked it off out of the air, putting the ball back in Bengals territory early in the second quarter. Burrow went for the end zone right away but overshot a wide open Tee Higgins, and made up for it by connecting with Ja’Marr Chase on a back shoulder deep shot for six and brought the score to 17-0.
The play also got Chase over 1,000 receiving yards on the season, and Burrow broke his own single-season passing touchdown record with his 35th of the year. Chase ended up as Burrow’s top receiver with 86 yards and eight receptions along with his score.
Baltimore started making progress on offense with the run game, but couldn’t muster a yard when they really needed it. Cincinnati stuffed the Ravens on fourth-and-one in the middle of the second quarter to preserve the shutout for the time-being. Following the Bengals’ first punt of the game, Brown and the Ravens converted two third-and-longs to get deep inside the red zone. Kenyan Drake rushed into the end zone right after the two-minute warning to give Baltimore something on the scoreboard.
Cincinnati’s defense would respond with a fury on their chance. Drue Chrisman pinned the Ravens right next to their own end zone, and Trey Hendrickson beat Ronnie Stanley to strip-sack Brown on the goal line. Joseph Ossai fell on the ball upon realizing it bounced off of his foot, and the Bengals got a defensive score on their third forced turnover of the day.
Despite the half-time score of 24-7, the Bengals had only run one more play and gained four more yards than the Ravens. The turnover differential made all the difference to make it a three-score game with two quarters to play.
The Bengals’ offense ended the second quarter with back-to-back punts and started the third quarter with another boot from Chrisman. Brown and the Ravens nearly generated an explosive pass down the field, but receiver James Proches stepped out of bounds before catching the throw and scampering down close to the goal line.
Baltimore punted back to Cincinnati, but Burrow coughed up the ball after being sacked for the first time. The replay showed Burrow’s facemask getting grabbed before he was taken down, but no flag was thrown. Justin Tucker knocked in a short field goal a few plays later to make it a 24-10 ball game.
Mixon injected some life into the Bengals’ offense by taking a short pass from Burrow 33 yards for their biggest play of the day. Burrow followed that with another patented back-shoulder toss to Chase, but the two couldn’t connected again in the end zone. McPherson eventually was brought back on for a short attempt, and the successful 26-yarder increased the lead back to three scores, 27-10.
Following another Tucker field goal, the Bengals’ nightmare scenarios started rearing their heads. Tee Higgins took a huge blow to the chest and got the wind knocked out of him, and Alex Cappa got his left ankle rolled into. The offense couldn’t move the chains, and big plays from the Ravens’ offense got Tucker within range for another field goal.
After trading punts, Cincinnati’s attempt to kill clock was nullified on fourth-and-inches, giving Baltimore the ball back down by 11 with seven minutes remaining. The Bengals got their own fourth down stand thanks to two drops by Ravens receivers and continued pass rush from Hendrickson, who drew a holding flag on Stanley.
Baltimore’s last ditch effort fell short as Bates forced a fumble on Sammy Watkins for the fourth Ravens turnover of the afternoon, and eventually ran out of time on their final possession.
The Bengals will accept their division crown with pride now as a rematch in the wild card round is next for both teams. Date and time of Kickoff is to be announced.