The Bengals fell to the Ravens, 24-16 today, in a game they needed to win to secure a playoff spot. With their playoff future on the line, they were unable to stop Ray Rice, and fell to 1-7 against teams with a winning record. It was a big game failure that’s all too familiar for the Marvin Lewis era.
Luckily, the Bengals are in the playoffs anyway thanks to similar choke jobs by the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Oakland Raiders. Cincinnati needed the Jets to lose to the Dolphins in the 1:00 game, then needed either Denver to lose to the Chiefs, or for Oakland to fall to San Diego to punch their postseason ticket with a loss. It turns out that they got all three.
Even before Andy Dalton’s desperation Hail Mary pass fell incomplete, the game became an afterthought as fans at a sold-out Paul Brown Stadium were celebrating the team’s second playoff berth in three years as the scoreboard showed Kansas City’s 7-3 win over Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos.
A 38-26 Oakland loss to the Chargers minutes after the game just provided good measure.
As for the game in Cincy, the Bengals fell victim to a monster game from RB Ray Rice. Sadly, the defense held him largely in check except for two giant runs, but it was those two runs that killed the Cats. His 70-yard dash down the right sideline in the first quarter put the Ravens ahead to start the game, and his 51-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter all but sealed the win, making it a two possession game with under 6 minutes to play. Both runs came on 3rd-and-one.
Rice finished with 191 yards on 24 carries. Without the two scoring runs, he averaged just 3.18 yards per carry.
Turnovers kill, and that old adage was proven again as Rice’s second score was set up after Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham fumbled at midfield. It was the only turnover of the game for either team, and occurred with the Bengals down 17-13 and driving.
After the score, the Bengals immediately moved downfield down 24-13 and got into the red zone, but failed to convert. They settled for Mike Nugent’s chip shot field goal and a 24-16 lead with 2:40 seconds left. Nugent hit from 23, 46, and 46 and missed from 36.
They forced a Ravens punt, and with no timeouts and a little over a minute to go, the Bengals were able to get inside the Ravens 40 yard line, but simply ran out of time again. Andy Dalton’s two desperation heaves to the end zone fell incomplete, though A.J. Green got his hands on both of them.
The win for Baltimore locks up the AFC North for the Ravens, and as the second seed they’ll enjoy a first round bye. Pittsburgh is thus relegated to the first wildcard, and will travel to Denver in the first round. The Bengals will visit 3rd-seeded Houston, who lost their finale to the Titans 23-22.
The match-up with the Texans is an appealing one for the Bengals, who can exact revenge for a last-second loss to Houston a few weeks ago in a game they led the whole way. However, Mike Zimmer has to be concerned about his run defense after giving up 221 yards on the ground and facing Houston’s dynamic duo of Ben Tate and Arian Foster.