By: Shelby Dermer
Baltimore — It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or the loss that broke the Bengals’ season. Cincinnati’s 19-14 loss on Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium all but ends a chance at a sixth consecutive trip to the postseason.
The Bengals turned the ball over twice inside the red zone, Mike Nugent missed an extra point, the game ended on a sack, and it was the same clown show Who Dey Nation had been accustomed to this season. It all adds up to a third straight loss by less than six points and to be blunt — it’s not the Bengals’ year.
Paul Guenther‘s defense once again rebounded from another opening-drive touchdown. Baltimore marched 75 yards in less than five minutes to begin the game, taking a 7-0 lead on a 14-yard touchdown toss from Joe Flacco to Breshad Perriman.
The Bengals would not allow Baltimore to find the end zone for the final 55 minutes of the game, but the leg of Justin Tucker was enough to move the Ravens into a first-place tie.
Tucker set an NFL-record with three first-half field goals from over 50 yards out, two of which came in the last 100 seconds of the second quarter, helping Baltimore take a 16-3 lead into the intermission.
Without Giovani Bernard (season-ending IR) and AJ Green (hamstring), Andy Dalton‘s numbers were his highest for the month of November. The Red Rifle spread the ball to eight different receivers, completing 28 of 46 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown while breaking a three-game streak with at least one interception.
However, Dalton lost two fumbles, both inside the Baltimore 20. After a Rey Maualuga interception in the second quarter, the Bengals trailed 10-3 when center Russell Bodine‘s ill-time snapped bounced off the signal-caller’s chest and Lawrence Guy recovered.
On Cincinnati’s final possession, Dalton had four of his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, but still drove the Bengals to the Baltimore 16 before Elvis Dumervil‘s strip sack and recovery all but sealed a third consecutive loss for the reigning AFC North champions.
Bengals’ Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert was held without a catch on two targets in the first half, but hauled in five receptions for a team-high 68 yards in the final two quarters. The Bengals went 86 yards on 11 plays late in the third quarter, a drive capped by a three-yard touchdown from Dalton to Eifert that cut the Ravens’ lead to seven.
Despite the momentous score, kicker Mike Nugent’s struggles continued on point-after attempts, pushing his lone extra point try wide right. He has now missed three straight PATs, the first kicker to do so since Max Zendejas in 1986 as a member of the Washington Redskins. He was released at the end of the season by Washington and kicked for Green Bay until 1988.
Nugent did make both of his field-goal tries. His 23-yarder put the Bengals on the board with 14:50 left in the first half and a 36-yard connection with six minutes left in the game made it 19-12.
In Bernard’s absence, running back Rex Burkhead was the team’s leading rusher with 29 yards despite being out-carried by Jeremy Hill 12 to 5. Hill managed just 21 yards, marking the fourth time in five games against Baltimore he’s been held to under the 25-yard mark. The LSU-product did snag a team-high six catches.
After Dalton’s late fumble, the Ravens ran out the final 11 seconds of the game by having punter Sam Koch run out of the back of the end zone for a safety, making the final score 19-14.
It’s been a frustrating season for the men in stripes. In the last four games, the Bengals have been outscored overall by just 10 points (83-73), showing how close this team is from being 7-4 or 6-3.
Cincinnati is quickly partying like it’s 2010, which is not a good thing. That was the last time they failed to make the playoffs after a 4-12 finish that featured eight one-possession losses.
The Bengals return to Paul Brown Stadium next Sunday (12/4) to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The last time these two teams met in the Queen City the game ended in a 13-13 tie back in 2008.