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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Ravens leave week 1 healthy, defeat Bills 13-7

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With uncertainty surrounding the Ravens on Sunday, the purple birds knocked off the Buffalo Bills with a 13-7 win.

It might not be the sexiest victory on paper. The Ravens only scored one offensive touchdown. They ran the ball 28 times, averaging three yards per rush. Joe Flacco was sacked four times, and was hit nine times. But the Ravens defense put on a performance to remember, forcing the Bills to punt seven times in their nine offensive drives. With only a six-point margin, those stops proved to be the difference.

Perhaps the game ball this week should go to corner-back Shareece Wright. Wright led the Ravens with 11 tackles, three for losses. 11 tackles is almost unheard of for a corner-back, let alone a corner-back who generally plays on the outside. Wright had not played very well in the preseason, but his performance on Sunday was superb.

“I was in position to make tackles, and we emphasized that, making tackles on McCoy and being able to get those guys down and eliminate big plays,” Wright said after the game. “We know they’re explosive when they’re making guys miss tackles, so that was important today, and I was able to get that done.”

Timmy Jernigan also had himself a nice day. He recorded two tackles for loss, one of them being a sack that came on a third down play that forced Buffalo to punt. When Baltimore got the ball back, they put the ball in the end-zone.

The other Raven to notch a sack was linebacker Terrell Suggs. Playing in his first game in 364 days, Suggs took down former teammate Tyrod Taylor on a third down play in the Bills’ last drive of the game.

All around, it was one of the best Ravens defensive performances since coordinator Dean Pees took over in 2012. Taylor only threw for 111 yards on 15 completions, and the Bills’ run game was limited to 65 yards. Altogether, Buffalo’s offense was held to 160 yards.

“Pees called one hell of a game,” Suggs said post-game.” It was all about don’t let Tyrod Taylor make an explosive play. Don’t let him break the game open, and we did that. We did that collectively.”

Like Buffalo, the Ravens did not have a great offensive performance, but it did not matter. Quarterback Joe Flacco, playing in his first game since tearing his ACL in November, threw for 258 yards and a touchdown. He had defenders in his face several times, especially in the second half. His knee held up fine and he got right back up each time after he was knocked to the grass. One blunder occurred when Flacco fumbled a shot-gun snap, but there appeared to be some miscommunication with center Jeremy Zuttah.

Flacco got everyone involved with the game plan, and threw the ball to 10 different receivers.

Free agent acquisition Mike Wallace led the Ravens receivers, catching three passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. His 66-yard touchdown catch was a thing of beauty; Flacco deep bombs went missing in 2015, and now Baltimore has a few deep threats on the receiving core.

“A lot of people wrote me off,” Wallace said. “They think I don’t have it, but I’ve got something for them. I told you all that from day one. Nothing’s going to change.”

Returning from a ruptured Achilles, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. hauled in five catches for 19 yards. It might be a few weeks before Smith really gets it going, but it was just good to see him running around on the field after he did not play in any preseason games.

M&T Bank Stadium erupted when tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Breshad Perriman hauled in their first receptions. Pitta played in his first game in almost two years after suffering a second hip dislocation in September 2014, and Perriman played in his first NFL game after missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury. He only caught one pass, but it was a big 35-yard grab that might have been the catch of the game.

As much as the defense should be commended for their efforts, it is concerning to see the Ravens only score three points in the final two quarters. The offense seemed to shut down at times, and aside from the field goal, two drives ended in punts and the other ended in a loss of downs. Flacco was sacked three times, twice in the same drive. The offensive line also had trouble opening up holes for running backs Justin Forsett and Terrance West in the second half. The duo combined for 28 yards on 11 carries after halftime. When Buffalo had no timeouts left at the end of the game, the Ravens were able to run out the clock by running the ball, but the Ravens finished with just 83 rushing yards.

Perhaps the best part of Sunday’s game was that no Ravens left the game without suffering any significant injuries. No Raven was lying on the ground at the end of a play throughout the entire game. After ending 2015 with over 20 players on injured reserve, the Ravens will gladly take that.

“Just an excellent team victory,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I thought our guys figured out how to play winning football throughout the course of the game.”

This week, the Ravens will shift their attention to the Cleveland Browns, who suffered a 29-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and their rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. It will be the first real road trip for Baltimore, who will enter “The Dawg Pound.”

By the way, the Orioles won 3-1 today too.

 

Podcast: Ravens Staff Writer Ryan Mink

Welcome to the June 9th edition of the Jake McDonnell Sports Podcast! Today’s episode features a great conversation with a very special guest: Baltimore Ravens staff writer Ryan Mink. As the Ravens wrap up OTA’s, Jake and Ryan dive into some of the hottest topics surrounding the Ravens as training camp approaches.

Topics covered include:

  • Biggest concerns facing the Ravens in 2016
  • How key injured players – Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Justin Forsett, among others – are doing, and will they be ready for training camp?
  • The 2016 rookie class, and some under-the-radar players to watch in camp
  • The Eugene Monroe saga
  • How the additions of Eric Weddle and Leslie Frazier will impact the secondary

Thanks for listening!