The Baltimore Raves improved to 7-3, and 5-0 at home Sunday afternoon after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 31-24. The Ravens are now tied atop the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers, they also own the tiebreaker against the Steelrs after sweeping them this season.
Again, the Ravens did all they could to lose the game. After leading by 17 with a minute gone in the fourth quarter they had to hang on as the Bengals roared back behind the arm of rookie QB Andy Dalton. Dalton was playing without his favorite target, rookie WR AJ Green, and it showed at times; he threw a career high three interceptions. Still, facing one of the leagues toughest defenses without his most explosive weapon, Dalton threw for 373 yards and a touchdown to go with those interceptions, single-handedly keeping his Bengals in the game.
Joe Flacco continued his up-and-down season with another inconsistent performance (17/27 270 yards 2 TD’s 1 INT), but the Ravens coaches did a better job of putting the offense in good positions; namely by handing Ray Rice the football. Rice was all over the place Sunday. He finished with 104 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns, and added 43 receiving yards on five catches. It’s been the absence of a solid running game that has forced Flacco into tough situations all season. Sunday the Ravens coaches made it a point to give Rice his looks.
Rice wasn’t the only Raven who impressed on Sunday however. Rookie WR Torrey Smith has officially entered the building. Granted, earlier this season he had that remarkable three touchdown game against the Rams, he also had the game-winning catch against the Steelers two weeks ago, but Sunday against a quality opponent it was clear he was Flacco’s go-to guy. Smith finished with six receptions for 165 yards with a beautiful touchdown catch-and-throw between two defenders.
But it wasn’t the Ravens offense that almost cost them the game this time. The Ravens defense, playing without their emotional leader Ray Lewis, struggled throughout the game. They gave up a season-high 483 yards to the Bengals, and this Bengals offense hasn’t been all-that explosive this season. Luckily, the Ravens were able to build a big enough lead early and the Bengals couldn’t get enough at the end.
“We’ve got to start faster. We can’t wait around until the end of the game to pick it up, come out and get back in it. It’s definitely going to be a focus for us.” Dalton said following the loss, the Bengals second loss in a row to a division rival. Now 6-4 the Bengals will have an uphill battle to make the playoffs, let alone win the division.
The Ravens, on the other hand, are in a great spot. They hold the tiebreaker with the Steelers which will definitely pay dividends down the stretch. They’re 5-0 at home this season which could be huge if they get any home playoff games. Most importantly they have a favorable schedule looking ahead.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s all out there for the Ravens to take. They lost some stinkers, they’ve been inconsistent, but right now at 7-3 the AFC picture is still fuzzy. Can they put together a nice winning streak? We’ll find out as they face another tough test against the 49er’s Thanksgiving night.
Until then, Happy Holidays!
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.