Match Report: Bengals 27, Ravens 24

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The literary pretentions of the Baltimore Ravens have always bothered me, admittedly partly because of jealousy but mainly because of the sheer pomposity of imagining that when people think of Baltimore, they think of poetic genius and not, in fact, TV drug wars and crab cakes. That said, perhaps an adoptive air of fiction is appropriate for an organization so proudly associated with such creative revisionists as Ray Lewis and everybody involved in the Ray Rice disgrace.

When asked about the offensive pass interference call that turned a (completely undeserved) Ravens win into a (not pretty but earned) Bengals victory, coach John Harbaugh said that he wasn’t allowed to answer the question—which is both untrue and yet thoroughly in keeping with the entire Ravens attitude towards being asked questions about anything these days, whether those questions be about the correct call on a belligerent wide receiver or about, you know, the potential cover-up of a brutal act of domestic violence. So, you know, at least they’re consistent I guess?

Politics aside, the game was a tense affair, the first half highlighted by Mo Sanu doing his best to unseat A.J. Green as the Bengals most talented juggler. After last week’s debacle the team—and the fans—desperately needed a first down on the opening drive; the offense, fired up by an emotional Andrew Whitworth, delivered in style, a mix of passes and runs that lead to an early score.

The Bengals, of course, can’t be trusted to have nice things. When Sanu raced through the Ravens on a double-switch reverse thingy (the technical name), we metaphorically joined in his through-the-legs celebration. When they tried to do exactly the same thing a later in the game, the only people surprised that the Ravens spotted it (and crunched Sanu for a loss of two yards) were the Bengals coaches. Ah, well.

The Bengals had done more than enough to win the game thanks to smooth interceptions from Adam Jones and Emmanuel Lamur, but Ravens kicker Justin Tucker kept the angry birds hanging around with 50-yard field goal after 50-yard field goal. With just a few minutes to play, Cincinnati drove down the field with a chance to finally finish them off. Of course, as I mentioned, the Bengals can’t have nice things, so the previously solid Dalton promptly had the ball knocked out of his left hand—yep, his left hand—and the Ravens scooped up the fumble and took it deep into the redzone. Moments later, there were two minutes left on the clock and the Ravens were inexplicably winning by four points.

There are a lot of reasons to not have much faith in these Bengals after their performances the past few weeks. But credit where it is due, the offense marched down the field in the games waning minutes with grit and authority, and Dalton burrowed over the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown on fourth down like his life depended on it.

Somehow, the threat of imminent cardiac seizure wasn’t over, as Ravens QB Joe Flacco had enough time to make himself a sandwich, decide he didn’t fancy turkey and swiss after all, order some of those Chicken McNuggets he so proudly advertises (used to advertise?), remember what they’re actually made of, decide he wasn’t that hungry after all, and then throw an 80-yard touchdown. Luckily, his receiver, Steve Smith Sr., had been punching Bengals safety George Iloka in the neck, and somehow the refs actually called offensive pass interference. At the point, the game was pretty much over.

Pretty much over but, to be fair, not quite over. A huge pet peeve of mine is players celebrating at the wrong time—whether that be dancing over an incomplete pass that should have been an interception or, in this case, celebrating before the game was over. I’m looking at you, Greg Little, with your celebratory hand in the air on third down with ten seconds to go. Put your hand down, Greg Little. You didn’t do anything and the game isn’t over. Put your hand down. Unless Marvin Lewis just asked, “Who has the worst hands on this team?” put your hand down.*

*Other acceptable questions upon which Greg Little may raise his hand: “Who is the droppiest receiver in the history of football?” “Who is least likely to be allowed to hold their cousin’s new baby?” and “Who is most likely to be unemployed once AJ Green’s toe gets better?” Greg Little is a wide receiver whom the Cleveland Browns dropped AFTER their best wide receiver was suspended for a year.

Anyway, the Ravens couldn’t repeat their shenanigans and the Bengals held on to win. A sweep of the Ravens and control of the division: after a month like we’ve had, brutalized by the Pats and Colts, frustrated by the Panthers and, in Marvin Lewis’ case, short of snoozes, well, things could be a lot worse. And on the plus side, at time of writing, we don’t have a huge chunk of fans publically protesting that it’s a woman’s fault if her fiancé punches her into unconsciousness.

Bengals 27, Ravens 24

Man Of The Match: Mo Sanu. I enjoyed Jeremy Hill’s phenomenally quick chase down after the Dalton fumble, and it was great to see the D get a little back on track. We even saw a few flashes of the old Geno Atkins. Kevin Huber had a strong day yet again, too. But it was Sanu’s gadgetry, pulling out big plays, big yards, and generally giving the offense the spark it had sorely lacked last week.

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