Ravens lose season finale to Bengals 27-10

CINCINNATI, OH –  For the fifth straight year, the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium, this time wining 27-10 on New Year’s Day.

“We did not play well,” head coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “Our emotional level was not where it has been in the past, and I think it has to do with what it happens last week. … It was definitely our worst game of the year.”

The Ravens finish the season 8-8 and will miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons since winning Super Bowl 47. The Bengals go 6-9-1 and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Pittsburgh Steelers officially win the AFC North at 10-6, and will be the AFC’s #3 seed in the playoffs. The Browns will finish in last place in the division with a record of 1-15.

Even without star wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Jeremy Hill, the Bengals had no trouble getting their offense going in the first quarter. Quarterback Andy Dalton completed his first 10 passes of the game, one of those being a touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah. Running back Rex Burkhead scored on Cincinnati’s first offensive possession on a 5-yard run, and at the end of the first quarter the Bengals had jumped out to a 14-3 lead. Burkhead finished the game with 119 rushing yards, making it the third game in a row that the Ravens defense allowed a 100-yard rusher.

The Ravens’ run defense simply collapsed in the final quarter of the season after being so stellar the first 12 games.

After the Bengals kicked a field goal on their first possession of the second quarter, the Ravens had an opportunity to make it a one-score game. The Ravens had a first-and-goal on Cincinnati’s 2-yard line, but when Joe Flacco tired to throw a pass to tight end Dennis Pitta, he was intercepted by Bengals safety Shawn Williams. That turnover lead to a Bengals field goal before the half, and the Ravens had dug themselves into a 20-3 hole.

Not much occurred in the third quarter, but the Ravens finally got into the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Flacco found receiver Breshad Perriman, who raced down the left sideline and scored what appeared to be a 40-yard touchdown. However, upon reviewing the play, the call was reversed when replay showed that Perriman’s right elbow touched the ground before he reached over the goal line with the ball. After the review, The Ravens got the ball on the Bengals’ 1-yard line, and got rookie running back Kenneth Dixon marched into the end zone to score his second rushing touchdown of the season.

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Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon ran for 44 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Credit: Baltimore Ravens.

On Baltimore’s next drive, the Ravens could not convert a fourth down play and gave the Bengals the ball back on the Baltimore 25-yard line. The Bengals answered with a six-play drive that ended with a five-yard run from Burkhead, which would be the final nail in the coffin for the Ravens. After this score, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh started pulling some of the offensive starters, including Flacco and receiver Steve Smith Sr., who was playing in his final career game.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Smith Sr. said to a CBS reporter after the game upon being asked if Sunday was indeed his final game. “At some point, it comes to an end. I have a beautiful wife, and four kids that need their dad. I need my kids, so I’m going home to Charlotte to be with my family.”

Smith Sr. finished the game with just three receptions for 34 yards. He finishes his 16-year career with 1,031 receptions (12th in NFL history), 14,731 yards (seventh in NFL history) and 81 touchdowns.

Smith’s absence next season will be one of several holes the Ravens will be looking to fill as the offseason begins. The Ravens did improve from last season, winning three more games. However, the Ravens came up short of their goal of making the playoffs. They finished 2-6 on the road, losing their final six road games. They switched offensive coordinators five games into the season, and the play-calling did not improve. Not only are there changes on the roster looming, but perhaps on the coaching staff as well with there already being rumblings that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg could be fired.

As mentioned, the Steelers will represent the AFC North in the playoffs as the #3 seed. They will host the #6 seeded Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field next weekend. Earlier this season, the Dolphins defeated the Steelers 30-15 in Miami. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards in that game.

As for the Ravens, the offseason begins this week, with the annual “State of the Ravens” press conference taking place in the coming days. With not making the playoffs three out of the past four seasons, it will be interesting to hear what Harbaugh, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti have to say about the future of the Baltimore Ravens.

 

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Dumervil returns, forces game-winning fumble as Ravens defeat Bengals 19-14

BALTIMORE, MD – After a tough loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Baltimore Ravens rebounded with a 19-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

The win lifts the Ravens’ record to 6-5 with a 4-0 record against division opponents. This also snaps the Ravens’ five-game losing streak to the Bengals. The Ravens are still tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers because both teams stand at 6-5, but the Ravens have the tiebreaker over the Steelers because Baltimore defeated Pittsburgh 21-14 in week 9. The Bengals drop to 3-7-1 as their depleted, injury-riddled season continues.

The Ravens were leading the Bengals 19-12 with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but the Bengals got the ball back with a chance to tie the game. Cincinnati threatened, marching down the field with two separate conversions on third and fourth down. With 1:12 remaining, the Bengals were facing another third down play on Baltimore’s 16-yard line. Quarterback Andy Dalton dropped back to pass and was strip-sacked by linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Defensive end Lawrence Guy fell on the ball, giving the Ravens the ball. The Bengals had two timeouts left, but there was not enough time for them to get the ball back.

Cincinnati was awarded two points on a safety in the last play of the game. The Ravens lined up in punt formation, and Sam Koch ran around in the end zone until time expired. The Ravens were called for multiple holding penalties, but at that point it didn’t matter.

A similar situation occurred at the end of Super Bowl 47 when the Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers.

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Linebacker Elvis Dumervil played in his first game in six weeks on Sunday, recovering a fumble and forcing the game-winning fumble. Credit: Baltimore Ravens. 

Sunday was the first game Dumervil played in since Baltimore’s week 5 loss to the Washington Redskins. He missed the first three games of the season with a foot injury, and that injury lingered. After playing two games, Dumervil went back on the shelf until his foot got stronger. After six weeks, Dumervil was announced active and his presence was felt in a big way. Along with the strip-sack, Dumervil recovered a fumble in the second quarter.

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Justin Tucker converted four field goals on Sunday, including three in the first half that were all over 50 yards. Credit: Newsday

Kicker Justin Tucker had a historic day on Sunday. In the first half, Tucker booted field goals of 52, 57, and 54 yards. He added a 36-yarder in the second half. Tucker has not missed a field goal this season, and the kicker has made 34 straight field goals dating back to last season. With the Ravens’ offense struggling to consistently find the end zone (and the red zone, for that matter), Tucker is making a strong case to be this year’s team MVP.

“[Range] doesn’t really matter,” Tucker said after the game. “It’s good to be doing well. I’ve got great people around me. [Koch and Cox] make my job so much easier. Hopefully this is something that will help carry our team through the playoffs and hopefully to a championship.”

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Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman catches his second career NFL touchdown in front of Bengals corner-back Darqueze Donnard. Credit: Newsday

Again, the Ravens’ offense got off to a strong start before slowing down. On their first drive, the Ravens put together an 11 play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with Breshad Perriman’s second NFL touchdown; a 14-yard reception from Joe Flacco. The play occurred in the right-hand corner of the end-zone, where Perriman reached over the helmet of corner-back Darqueze Donnard, caught the pass and got both feet in bounds before falling to the ground. Initially, it looked questionable if Perriman got both feet in, but replay clearly showed that Perriman got both feet down and had control of the football before falling down.

After the first drive, Baltimore’s offense got across midfield often, but had trouble getting into the red zone. In fact, the only other time they got inside Cincinnati’s 20 was when Tucker booted his 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Flacco finished the game with 234 passing yards, running backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon combined for 97 yards on 26 carries, and wide receiver Mike Wallace caught three passes for 57 yards (long of 31), but there were not a lot of plays made that changed the game.

The Ravens had a 16-3 lead at halftime, and then only scored three points in the second half and allowed the Bengals to threaten late in the game. With opponents like Miami, New England, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh coming up, the offense needs to find a better rhythm.

“I felt like we lost our tempo in the second half,” Flacco said after the game. “There were a couple of things that slowed us down a little bit, and I wish we could have kept [the momentum] going.”

Next week the Ravens face the Miami Dolphins, who have won six straight games. However, only two of the six teams the Dolphins have played during that span have winning records. Nevertheless, Miami is in contention for a Wild Card spot in the AFC playoff race, so next week’s game will be another one the Ravens need to win. In a weak AFC North division with the Steelers on their tails, the Ravens have little room for error for the rest of 2016.

Kickoff against the Dolphins is next Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1:00 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium.