BALTIMORE - Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis couldn't have put Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson's scramble for a 23-yard pass to wide receiver John Brown on a broken play with 19 seconds left in Sunday's first half on his first call sheet as defensive coordinator.
But that's the play that led to Justin Tucker's 56-yard field goal on the last play of the half that gave the Ravens a 13-7 lead in another failure to secure the final two minutes.
It was a variety of glitches that led to this one, starting with rookie linebacker Malik Jefferson getting pushed back into punter Kevin Huber resulting in a deflected 31-yard punt that was elevated by a holding call on Jefferson.
Then when left end Carlos Dunlap couldn't haul down the slippery Jackson in the backfield, he ran around long enough to find Brown running wide open across the field and that brought on the Pro Bowler Tucker for what seemed to be a chip shot.
It was the ninth time in ten games this season the Bengals were scored upon in the last two minutes of the half and the second time Sunday since Tucker broke a 7-7 tie with 1:46 left when a third-down holding call on fullback Patrick Ricard forced his 28-yarder.
Put this one squarely on the Bengals' offense since they couldn't pull off a 1:46 drive to end the half. Not when the longest play was quarterback Andy Dalton's 20-yard scramble. But they couldn't keep the Ravens off him as Matthew Judon buried him on his blind-side for a sack and they had to punt it away.
The offense let Lewis down in that first half. They were 2-for-7 on third down and Dalton was just seven of 16 for 76 yards and a 58.3 passer rating. The run game? Running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard combined for 15 yards on eight carries in the half.
But Lewis got his defense off the mat after a tough opening drive. They did give up 131 yards rushing in the half (Jackson went for 64 of them on 10 carries), but they had a red-zone stop to force that first Tucker field goal when faced with a first down on their own 44. The last thing the Ravens wanted Jackson to do in his first NFL start was pass and he did it just 11 times in the half, completing eight for 76 yards.
The short field started at the Bengals 9 when they had a bad three-and-out as Dalton and wide receiver Tyler Boyd again couldn't connect over the middle on third down on a play Boyd thought he was held as the ball zipped past him.
Then on the punt Bengals safety Brandon Wilson hit a Raven in the back to put Baltimore at the Bengals 44.
If this is Baltimore, it must be Dalton to Boyd. After going 0-for-3 on third down and amassing just 30 yards in the first quarter, Dalton hit Boyd on third-and-seven for 27 yards when Boyd won a chicken fight with cornerback Tavon Young down the right sideline.
Mixon then set up his own one-yard touchdown run with a 21-yard catch-and-run off a dump pass in which he left linebacker Kenny Young in the dust. Mixon then mauled it with the help of extra tackle Jake Fisher on the right side to tie it at 7 with 12:57 left in the half.
With Lewis calling the defensive shots, the Bengals rebounded to force back-to-back punts, their first defensive stops in more than five quarters.
Images from the week 11 contest as the Bengals face the Ravens.
Using a nickel package with linebackers Hardy Nickerson and Jordan Evans, Lewis almost got a third-down sack from the converging linemen Geno Atkins and Jordan Willis, but Jackson escaped long enough to throw it to Evans and he dropped it.
On the next series Lewis dialed up a Nickerson blitz and Jackson also had to fight out of an Atkins sack before he had to throw a dump-off pass to force a punt.
The Ravens went 75 yards on the opening drive and never thought about Jackson throwing the ball on 11 simple runs. Jackson kept it five times for 46 yards, the killers on two third downs. One was a quarterback draw on third-and-six, an easy 21 yards with no one in the middle of the field. Then on third-and-four, Jackson ran a zone read and simply beat the defense to his left edge that didn't have a stout set for the first down.
And that's what happened on running back Alex Collins' four-yard touchdown five minutes into the game. Nose tackle Josh Tupou penetrated and there was no on the right edge when he bounced it to outside.
And they got a bad half-the-distance penalty when cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick ran across the field to get wide receiver Michael Crabtree off cornerback William Jackson after they got tangled.
Here's how inexperienced Dalton's targets were in the first two series. Rookie Auden Tate caught his first NFL ball on third-down (a nice reaching grab) and he barely missed a first down when cornerback Jimmy Smith threw him back. Then on the second series tight end Jordan Franks caught his second NFL ball.
But they couldn't save the first three series, which got virtually nothing save three punts. The first series got blown up when Mixon was thrown for a loss on second-and-two by untouched linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. Right tackle Bobby Hart's false start didn't help the second series and neither did some pressure on Dalton from linebacker Terrell Suggs when he tried to hit wide receiver Tyler Boyd over the middle on balls that were defended. And on the third series Boyd dropped a first-down ball on a sideline route.
They deployed Mixon and Bernard together for the first snap and put Bernard in the slot and it was golden. Dalton went play-action to Mixon and hit Bernard out of the backfield for an eight-yard pickup. But Mixon lost four on the next snap.