For a moment on Sunday, it appeared that a struggling, stumbling Bengals team had discovered a horseshoe in their collective bum, sending the game into overtime on a ridonkulous Hail Mary touchdown with two seconds remaining. They had momentum and the ball to start the bonus period, and a prime chance to spread a fresh coat of winning over the stink that was the first four quarters against the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, they lost 11 yards on a 4th-and-2 from the Ravens 33-yard line, leading to a Baltimore game-winning field goal. It was justice, really. The Bengals played a crap game and had no business sending the contest to OT. The fact that they still managed to do so might suggest something good and promising about the club moving forward. But it’ll have to wait in line behind all of the bad that took place during Sunday’s 20-17 loss.
My goodness. Nine penalties accounting for 134 yards on the day. Of those, 114 came in the first half, which was 12 more than the Bengals gained on offense over the same period. Yeah, some of the penalties were questionable, like Vontaze Burfict’s late-hit on Joe Flacco. Some of them were plain wrong, like Carlos Dunlap’s horse-collar penalty, which, ya know, wasn’t a horse-collar. But a lot of them were warranted, like Reggie Nelson’s blind assault of Torrey Smith on a deep ball, Terence Newman repeatedly interfering on pass plays, Chris Crocker showing his age, or Dre Kirkpatrick doing very Dre Kirkpatrick-y things on punt coverage. (Newman, who I wrote about glowingly earlier this season, is getting exposed a bit without Leon Hall back there in the secondary, in my opinion.) When you have three turnovers and 134-yards worth of penalties, that’s what Dan Dierdorf would refer to—like constantly, a million times throughout the course of the game, whenever Greg Gumbel pauses long enough to take a breath—as a “recipe for disaster.” Which is funny, because that’s also what I refer to as any broadcasting team that consists of Dan Dierdorf.
The only reason the team had a shot to tie the game up on that last-second heave was via a stout day by the defense, which allowed only 189 total yards by the Ravens. That number is a tad misleading, as the majority of those 134 penalty yards were incurred by the defense, but is was still an impressive overall performance, especially without Geno Atkins, Leon Hall, Rey Maualuga, Taylor Mays, DeviOH GOD PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. The unit made Flacco look terrible (despite still being the best QB in yesterday’s game) and held notorious Bengal-killer Ray Rice to 30 rushing yards on 18 carries, which seems almost impossible, since I feel like most running backs could do better simply by taking the handoff, closing their eyes, and running forward until they fall down. Also, props to Vinny Rey, who turned in a stat-line of double-digit tackles, three sacks, three passes defended, and an interception. Rey Maualuga might not have that starting job locked up when he returns from injury.
3. Hail Mary
4. Andy Dalton
He was atrocious on Sunday, the complete opposite of how he played against the Bills-Lions-Jets. An epic regression. He was the Mr. Hyde to his October-Player-of-the-Month Dr. Jekyll. Or maybe the other way around—whichever the bad one was, that’s who he was against the Ravens. Baltimore finally succeeded at what all opposing defenses should do against Dalton: bring the heat. Whether they were rushing four or six, the Ravens brought varying pressure from different angles and directions all game. According to Pro Football Focus, on the 18 drop-backs Dalton was pressured, he went 4-12 for 16 yards (!!!), one interception, and five sacks for a QB rating of 7.6 (not seventy-six…seven-point-six) and a PFF rating of -3.8. On the 16 pass-plays the Ravens explicitly blitzed, Dalton was 4-14 for 34 yards, one TD, one sack, a QB rating of 63.4 and a -3.7 PFF rating. Plus, the tipped Hail Mary to send the game to OT completely glosses over what an unspeakably egregious drive he turned in on that possession. The Bengals started at their own 40 with 1:28 left and no timeouts. After completing two passes on three plays for 14 yards (all of which took waaayyy too long), he avoided a sack and scrambled for two yards IN BOUNDS to the Baltimore 44-yard line, followed by a seven-yard sack back to their own 49, followed then by a spike on 3rd-and-15 to stop the clock with two seconds left and 51 yards to the goal line. Somehow, his last-ditch prayer was answered, an unforeseen cherry atop of his turd sundae of a game.
5. Mike Nugent
He shanked a 42-yarder in the second quarter that was wide-left from the moment it left his foot. In overtime, looking at 4th-and-2 from the Baltimore 33-yard line, the Bengals elected to go for it instead of attempting a 50- to 51-yard field goal. I like Nugent, and I know he’s made a handful of big, clutch kicks this season. And yes, it was windy on Sunday. But it’s not like he was kicking from a life raft in a hurricane. I’m not sure why Marvin Lewis elected not to attempt that field goal in overtime, but if you aren’t comfortable sending your kicker out to try a 50-yarder in a big spot, I’m not sure that guy should be your kicker.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Dunlap’s strip-sack, Vontaze Burfict continuing his streak of committing a personal foul AND being an absolute maniac, AJ Green catching tipped passes, Tyler Eifert, Jim Harbaugh’s motivation to constantly whine to the referees despite his opponent racking up 134 penalty yards.
Going for it: A pair of failed fourth downs book-ended this one for the Bengals. The first: a 4th-and-1 on the offense’s first drive of the game from the Baltimore 47, a QB sneak that got stuffed for no gain. The second: the aforementioned 4th-and-2, where they elected to go for it instead of kick a field goal, opting for a questionable swing pass to Gio Bernard that lost 11 yards and put the Ravens in a prime spot. While I didn’t agree with the second decision, I do like Marvin’s aggressiveness. I hope this game doesn’t make him gun-shy moving forward.
Dan Dierdorf: Seriously, CBS, make it stop.