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Bengals-Ravens recap - 12/27/13

By Mike Berk-- Follow on Twitter @mike_berk

The Bengals entered their regular season finale as AFC North Division champs for the third time in the last 11 years, but still with much to be decided in terms of playoff seeding.  The 2nd seed was still possible.  So was falling into 4th place.  Cincinnati also had a lot to achieve, as far as reaching team and individual milestones.  Could the team wrap-up a perfect 8-0 season at Paul Brown Stadium?  Could Andy Dalton catch and pass Carson Palmer as the teams single season record holder for touchdown passes?  (He had 31 coming into the game, while Palmers record is 32 from the 2005 season.)  And above all else, could they drive the final dagger into Baltimores season, and erase any hopes the Ravens had of making it back-to-back Super Bowl wins?  Yes, even when youve got things clinched before week-17, there can still be no shortage of reasons for playing hard, and playing to win. 

Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden certainly displayed that play-to-win trait. On their very first play from scrimmage, Gruden called for Dalton to take a deep shot down the right sideline only to have a 50/50 ball intercepted by the Ravens Corey Graham.  Baltimore took possession at the Cincinnati 21-yard-line but the defense held the Ravens to a 38-yard field goal attempt, which Justin Tucker made to put the Bengals in an early, but certainly more than manageable 3-0 deficit.  

Then Dalton put the Bengals in peril with anything but a 50/50 ball.  He was way off target looking for A.J. Green over the middle and the pass was picked off by James Ighedibo.  Daltons 2nd interception of the day was his 18th of the season, which is a new career-high, (low?).    Once again though, the damage was minimal as Mike Zimmers defense limited the Ravens to another field goal, and just a 6-0 lead.

But one play on the Bengals next series got it all back and then some.  Not just the points, but the goodwill fans had for Dalton.  He unloaded on a 53-yard-touchdown pass to A.J Green to give the Bengals a 7-6 lead, and in the process tying Palmer with his 32nd scoring pass of the season.    Green later couldnt get both hands on what wouldve been another Bengals touchdown in the 2nd quarter, and Cincinnati had to settle for a 39-yard field goal from Mike Nugent to grab a 10-6 lead with halftime approaching.  

But with time remaining before the break, the Bengals remained in attack mode.  Dalton broke the single season franchise record for touchdown passes, with a big assist to Marvin Jones.  Jones grabbed Daltons 33rd of the season with one hand, and the Bengals had clearly recovered from those two early interceptions by taking a 17-6 lead over the Ravens at halftime.  

Its never easy when you never know which Andy Dalton will show up.  On this day we got good Andy and bad Andy and we got him at different times.  Dalton tossed his 3rd interception of the game early in the 3rd quarter to give the Ravens some life on Cincinnatis side of the 50 yard line.  But as it has all day, the Bengals defense held the Ravens to just three more points.  But the game was down to an 8 point spread, and the Bengals are 0-4 in games when Dalton has thrown at least three interceptions.   And when Shawn Powell booted one all of 10 yards later in the 2nd quarter, it was the equivalent of having a 4th turnover and you started to think that streak of losing games when Dalton throws all of those interceptions was more than a possibility.   And thoughts of a loss sprung to life when Joe Flacco hit Marlon Brown in the back of the end zone to make it a two point game.  Ray Rices run on the conversion tied it at 17.  

The Bengals answered with a drive youd expect from a championship caliber team by going 90-yards and reaching the end zone when Dalton kept the ball on a read option play near the goal line.  Chris Crocker then intercepted Flaccos next pass inside the Baltimore 30-yard line.  

Some questionable play calling by Gruden (a pass play on 1st and goal that was intercepted), and a questionable decision to by Dre Kirkpatrick on a 4th down interception (he shouldve batted the ball down to preserve field position), didnt hurt the Bengals.  Kirkpatrick later picked off another pass, which was the only decision to make in that spot, and ran it back for a touchdown to make it a 17-point lead.    

The Bengals top the Ravens 34-17 to finish the season 11-5 overall, 3-3 in the division, and 8-0 at Paul Brown Stadium.




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