In some ways I hate the Ravens even more than I do the Steelers. OK, that’s not true, but it’s close. I hate Joe Flacco because he’s as over-rated as The Social Network and looks like a vampire. I don’t enjoy that CBS decided to cut repeatedly to shots of him picking his ear. Nobody needs to endure that when they’re losing in the fourth quarter. I don’t like that Terrell Suggs is an orc (ok, enough with comparing the Ravens to evil mystical creatures) and I’m not a fan of the growing number of Harbaughs in the league. They’re practically running wild (though the Ravens’ John is infinitely classy).
So I was rather hoping the Bengals would be playing a collective game of “Angry Birds”. The sad thing is that for 56 minutes we absolutely schooled the team that many saw going to the Super Bowl. Two two-minute black outs (including, but not limited to, double interceptions and the worst punt Kevin Huber has ever made) yielded 28 points to an otherwise unimpressive Baltimore team. It was, unfortunately, enough.
We all learned some lessons. We learned that Bernard Scott is not a quarterback, nor Andy Dalton a wide-receiver. That the option is not, well, an option. That the NFL needs to change the execrable “Calvin Johnson” rule about ball control for wide receivers that cost the Bengals this game. We also learned that Andy Dalton may make rookie mistakes but boy will he come right back out firing.
Things started well; a gorgeous drive finished by Cedric Benson as our offensive line tore a space an rhino could have waltzed through – I think I saw Bobbie Williams in the corner of the screen eating somebody. Safety Taylor Mays and receiver Rome SImpson set an AFC North tone with controlled aggression, scat-slot Sharp Shins added a new dimension to the offense. Benson ended up doubling his touchdown tally for the season despite a lack of yards but thanks to Dalton’s picks and the speed of Ravens receiver Torrey Smith (except for when Adam Jones stopped Smith by the hair – they don’t call him “Pacman” for nothing) the Bengals found themselves 31-14 down in the fourth quarter.
Dalton kicked into overdrive then: receivers Caldwell and Simpson both took monster catches, Caldwell’s for a score, as they torched the Ravens’ secondary mercilessly. The Bengals came up short at the last; the idiotic non-touchdown rule too much to overcome. But they proved that they belong. If the return fixture at Paul Brown Stadium features a healthy AJ Green then, well, we’ll see…
Bengals 24 Ravens 31