If you skipped the final score and just looked just at the statistics, you would have been sure the Baltimore Ravens dropped their fourth straight game and essentially ended their playoff hopes. Instead, the team found a way to win ugly and upset the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals to now find themselves in the thick of the AFC North playoff race.
Joe Flacco once again mixed some great throws while moving outside of the pocket with bouts of inaccuracy and missed targets. He threw for a season-low 140 yards and two more interceptions but made the plays when the team needed them most in overtime, including a smooth-looking pass off a bootleg to Ed Dickson for a clutch first down to help set up Justin Tucker‘s game-winning field goal.
The victory is potentially monumental, but the win will likely be looked at as nothing but a band-aid game by John Harbaugh and the rest of the coaching staff this week. The playoffs are still an option and that’s all that matters for now, but the offensive line again looked like Swiss cheese when the Bengals’ D was done with it. And the secondary’s penchant for giving up big plays at the worst times nearly blew a game that the Ravens led until the last second of regulation.
Flacco was sacked five more times to bring his disturbing season total to 30 as the line made spot-starter Vincent Rey look all-world. Filling in for Rey Maualuga, the fourth-year backup had 17 tackles on the season and one sack in his career. When the final whistle blew, he had 15 tackles and three sacks in this one, as Rey seemed to be in the Ravens’ backfield as much as Flacco.
The most disturbing aspect from this game has to the continued ineffectiveness of Ray Rice. Fans can’t excuse Rice’s lackluster day due to play-calling this time as Jim Caldwell stayed committed to the former All-Pro to the tune of 18 carries on which he had only 30 yards. At this stage, it might be time to wonder if Rice and his $4 million cap number might be a potential cap casualty in the offseason as the team struggles to add talent around Flacco’s huge deal. At the very least it seems likely that Baltimore will draft a back in the first two rounds.
For now, the Ravens have to concentrate on getting back to .500 with a trip to Chicago in the cards next. While the Bengals host a hungry and talented Browns’ team, the Ravens have an excellent chance to get within a game of Cincinnati and make a run for the AFC North crown. First, they will have to take care of business at Soldier Field.