Of course just a few days after Art Modell died the Ravens would win, at home, on Monday night football. After a pre-game coverage consisting entirely of clips of Ray Lewis weeping at the national anthem, overlaid with stories of Ray Lewis stroking Art Modell’s hands as he lay dying and home video footage of a shirtless Ray Lewis rescuing a baby from a tree surrounded by wolves, before giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dying nun, what other outcome could there be? Everyone seemed on board: the Ravens, who started things with a 50-yard bomb to Torrey Smith; the officials, who decided that since Art Modell had died and we were playing in Baltimore, the Ravens receivers wouldn’t actually have to catch the ball in order to score touchdowns (see Boldin, Anquin); and, perhaps, most of all, the Bengals.
Yes, we kept things tight in the first half: BenJarvis Green Ellis got his Cincinnati career off to the best possible start by charging head-first into Ray Lewis’ face, Andrew Hawkins ran around wonderfully, manically, like a fly trapped in a glass and somehow we entered the half only one score down. I say “somehow” because the Bengals defense, a talented and (usually) well-coached group had what I believe is technically called “a bloody nightmare”. It would be nice to say that the Bengals were so focused on stopping Ray Rice that they perhaps allowed too much leeway to the Ravens’ passing game, but as he averaged seven yards a carry and a score, that seems too charitable.
We knew things were over then both ESPN analysts started inexplicably announcing that “The Ravens defense looks gassed – they’re done!” two minutes into the second half. Of course, the Ravens promptly held the Bengals attack to a field-goal and if the Bengals did make another first down, they certainly did not score a point. Andy Dalton kindly took the pressure off the defense, in terms of blame, if not in terms of the game, by throwing an interception (that Ed Reed returned for a touchdown) and then promptly losing a fumble on the next drive. By the end of the game, the Ravens were wheeling out players that, frankly, even the Ravens coaches hadn’t heard of, and still they ploughed on. Truthfully, they could probably have wheeled out Art Modell’s corpse to play quarterback in the final quarter and it still wouldn’t have threatened the result.
In the end, despite some spectacularly dubious calls (imaginary pass interference…against the Bengals…AJ Green’s decent catch being overturned…against the Bengals…that joke of a touchdown…against the Bengals…) the 44-13 final score was more than fair. Bengals fans and media were treated to the classic barrage of “we’ve learned a lot of lessons from this” quotes, though what lessons we learned were not elaborated upon: “Teflon gloves for the defense were a bad idea”? “Don’t play Monday Night Football drunk?” Or possibly just simply “um…so…the Ravens are awesome”?
Oh well. Next week we get to play the flip side of Art Modell’s NFL legacy. At least we’re not on prime time.
Bengals 13, Ravens 44 (yep, really)
Man Of The Match – Andrew Hawkins