Trying to weave the mostly disastrous—if occasionally glorious—monstrosity that was the Bengals-Ravens game into a cohesive narrative while still doing justice to the mind-blowing ineptitude of the offense, the jaw-dropping (dare I say bias?) inconsistency of the officiating, and the peculiarity of the games final minutes would be almost impossible. So I won’t. Instead, I’ll break it down into nice, edible, bite-size chunks.
The Bengals Offense Was So So Bad. So Bad. SO BAD.
At one point early in the game, a small sheet of scribbled upon paper blew across the field. “Ah, Bob Bratkowski’s playbook,” chortled one observer, not yet beaten down by the Bengals 316 consecutive failed third-down attempts. If it was, then Jay Gruden must have picked it up, as the Bengals offense spluttered through the 50-odd minutes of the game rushing for a yard, rushing backwards for a yard, throwing the ball away, and then punting. At one point the Bengals had 4th-and-1, attempted to batter their way to a first down (yay)…and didn’t get it (boo). As the pile untangled itself, the cameras showed receiver Andrew Hawkins getting to his feet. I like Baby Hawk, a lot. But he’s literally the smallest player on the roster. By some distance (save for Gio Bernard). What exactly were they hoping he would bring into the six-inch shoving competition that, say, a fully-formed adult male couldn’t have contributed? Margus Hunt doesn’t seem to be up to much, ya know, and he’s a world shot-putting champion. You don’t think he could have added something to the PUSHING CONTEST that Hawkins couldn’t? It’s like having one hot dog left at an eating contest and replacing Pavarotti with Ghandi. The offensive line lived up to its sobriquet, allowing the Ravens to rush Andy Dalton again and again. Though, to be fair to the line, even when they did their job, Dalton just kept throwing it to Ravens defensive backs, so perhaps they figured a panicked Dalton throwing the ball out of bounds was better than a protected Dalton throwing to the Ravens. If so, good job guys!
Dalton was so bad that at one point my (diminutive and not usually overtly aggressive) girlfriend snapped: “If he throws one more interception I’m going to fly to Baltimore and give him a slap.” He promptly threw another (his sixth in a week) and we decided we had to upgrade. “If he throws one more interception we’ll fly to Cincinnati, throw garbage on his lawn and make him retire.”
Yeah, But On the Other Hand…the Defense…SO GOOOOD.
Absent its two best players, all-world DT Geno Atkins and CB Leon Hall, the Bengals D was supposed to be riding on the offense. Instead, the defense—which was so depleted that at one point during the third quarter I’m pretty sure I spied Mike Zimmer looking for a spare linebacker on Craigslist—ate the reigning Super Bowl champions alive. Aside from a huge penalty on Reggie Nelson, the Ravens only points came from blunders by the offense. Ray Rice was averaging 2.8 yards per carry coming in, one of the worst of all time. The Bengals held him to 1.7.
Joe Flacco—who gets paid more to QB the Ravens then everyone you have or ever will have had a conversation with combined will get paid to do anything ever—had as many turnovers as Dalton (a LOT) including, of course, an interception to Terence Newman, who continues to only intercept Super Bowl winning QBs. It was a thoroughly, spectacularly magnificent effort, and shame upon the offense that they wasted it.
The Officiating Was As Bad As The Offense. And Did I Mention That Was Bad?
I’m not going to go on about it. About the fact that at one point the referee threw a flag on Baltimore, the crows started booing and so he said he didn’t mean to throw it. About the fact that every time there was a contentious play the camera would cut to John Harbaugh screaming at a referee who would then nod in agreement and penalise (Ed’s note: You have to say it with a British accent) the Bengals. The fact that even the chortling CBS analysts admitted that a crucial penalty by the Ravens on an (Andy Dalton) interception was chalked off because it would have been “unpopular.” Instead, I’ll just list the top five totally/inexplicably biased/surprising calls.
- As time ran down, Joe Flacco desperately scrambled to make a play with his feet. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict tackled him and knocked him out of bounds, drawing a 15-yard penalty for, apparently, hitting the QB when he was off the field of play. He was at least two feet very much “on” the field of play. The more replays they showed, the closer to being in the middle of the damn field Flacco seemed to be.
- Horse-collar on DE Carlos Dunlap. Another dreadful call, another crucial play, another FIFTEEN yarder that couldn’t be reviewed. Dunlap beautifully sacked Flacco for a huge loss and was penalized for grabbing him by the collar. Except his hands were nowhere near the collar. The more replays they showed, the less collar-y it seemed. It was a textbook example of a legal sack.
- The Blind Side was playing last night on TV, and I’m assuming all the refs were watching. Ravens OT Michael Oher slammed Burfict into the turf long after the play had finished. And nothing was called. Just…nothing.
- No pass interference was called in the red zone as WR Mo Sanu tried to jump for a ball despite having one arm twisted behind his back by TWO Ravens, as if under citizen’s arrest. This was particularly sad, as it was one of only 4 passes Andy Dalton threw that was even vaguely near an intended receiver.
- Holding. Just…all of the holding.
In the end, of course, none of this mattered. The Bengals leveled things up on the final play of the game with a ridiculous Hail Mary that bounced around mid-air for what seemed an eternity before dropping into the leaping arms of the—frankly, as confused as everyone else—AJ Green. The Bengals marched up the field in overtime before promptly losing 11 yards on a swing pass and losing the whole shebang on a wind-assisted field goal.
Final Score: Ravens 20, Bengals 17
Man Of The Match: Damn. Welcome to Jungle, Vinny Rey. Rey was starting at middle linebacker in place of injured Rey (Rey #1?) Maualuga. Fun fact: as well as being known as the smartest guy in the Bengals locker room, Rey is also the funniest, doing amazing impersonations of the other players. The other players once got him to do his Keith Rivers for me and it was hilarious. I assume it was hilarious, at least, as I’ve never met Keith Rivers, but the other guys seemed to love it. Anyways, the man was everywhere, sacking Flacco a staggering three times, grabbing a key interception (that the offense promptly wasted), and racking up tackle after tackle.