Game Preview: Ravens at Bengals

Dre Kirkpatrick

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air nationally on NFL Network and is produced by FOX-TV. In Cincinnati, it also will be carried by WKRC-TV (CBS Ch. 12). Broadcasters are Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline reporter), Kristina Pink (sideline reporter) and Mike Pereira (rules analyst).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

Setting the scene: After a thrilling 34-23 win at Indianapolis last week, the Cincinnati Bengals will carry considerable momentum into their nationally televised matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals scored 24 unanswered points in the second half against the Colts for a come-from-behind victory.

“That was a four-quarter football game,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “Front to back, four quarters of football. We got into the fourth quarter, gained the lead and then held it. We did a nice job.”

The game’s key play came via reserve S Clayton Fejedelem, who was thrust into action after the first-quarter ejection of starting SS Shawn Williams. With the Colts trailing by four points and attempting to drive for a game-winning TD with under a minute left, Fejedelem hit Indianapolis TE Jack Doyle and forced a fumble, then scooped up the ball and raced 83 yards for the game-sealing score.

“We had our heels against the wall,” Fejedelem said after the game. “But we went in at halftime, regrouped and went back out there and took care of business. The defense remained calm and came up with a big play at the end. It was a great team win, and great to come back like that from 13 down.”

On offense, QB Andy Dalton led the way with a 109.7 passer rating, his highest since Week 6 of last season, which also came in a win over Indianapolis, at Paul Brown Stadium. Dalton overcame an INT on his first pass, and finished with 21 completions in 28 attempts for 243 yards and two TDs. WR A.J. Green also started his 2018 season well, logging team-highs in catches (six) and yards (92), including a diving effort on a 38-yard TD catch in the third quarter to cut the Colts’ lead to six.

“We had numerous guys that made plays,” Green said. “The offensive line played great, the receivers made plays when we needed to, and Andy (Dalton) played unbelievable.”

The Bengals also received key contributions on offense from some of their younger players. Second-year HB Joe Mixon had 149 yards from scrimmage (95 rushing, 54 receiving) and a rushing TD, while second-year WR John Ross snagged a three-yard TD catch. Ross’ score was his first career catch, and the Bengals’ first TD of the season.

In addition to Fejedelem’s play, Cincinnati’s defense received significant contributions from its key players, including sacks by DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap’s sack proved particularly important, as it pushed the Colts back to the Bengals’ 37-yard line and set up a 55-yard FG attempt, and Indianapolis K Adam Vinateri’s kick fell just short. LB Preston Brown, playing in his first game as a Bengal after spending his first four seasons with Buffalo, prevented a possible Colts score when he intercepted an Andrew Luck pass at Cincinnati’s seven-yard line on the Colts’ first possession. And CB Dre Kirkpatrick had a game-high three passes defensed, including two in the fourth quarter.

"We didn’t dwell on any bad plays,” Dunlap said. “We just kept resetting and going out there and making our next play our best play.” 

On Thursday, Cincinnati will face a Baltimore team that will look to reverse the outcome of last season’s finale. In that game, Dalton hit WR Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard TD on a fourth-and-12 with less than a minute remaining, giving Cincinnati a 31-27 win that kept the Ravens from making the playoffs.

The play also famously lifted the Buffalo Bills to their first playoff appearance since 1999, prompting grateful Bills fans to donate a combined total of more than $550,000 to both the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, and the Western Pennsylvania Youth Athletic Association, Boyd’s charity of choice. The Ravens last week beat the Buffalo Bills, 47-3.

The series: Overall, the series is tied, 22-22.

Here are some series notes:

● Cincinnati has not led in the series since after the first of two meetings in 1998, when they were up 3-2.

● The Bengals have won seven of the last nine meetings between the two teams.

● It hasn’t been an easy series for the visiting team. The Ravens lead 14-8 in Baltimore, and the Bengals lead 14-8 in Cincinnati.

● Since 2010, 12 of the teams’ 16 meetings have been one-score decisions, by eight or fewer points.

Home openers: The Bengals are 29-21 all-time in home openers, including 16-9 in those that, like Thursday’s game, have not also been the season opener.

Under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are 9-6 in all home openers and 8-3 in home openers that were not the season opener.

The Bengals have a 10-8 record in home openers at Paul Brown Stadium, including an 8-3 mark in games that were not also the season opener.

Bengals on Thursday: The Bengals have played 13 times previously on Thursday, posting a 7-6 record, including 4-2 at home. The Bengals are 4-5 on Thursdays under head coach Marvin Lewis, including a 3-2 record at Paul Brown Stadium. Only one of the Thursday games, in 2010, was played on Thanksgiving.

Turnover margin key vs. Ravens: In 22 Bengals-Ravens games during Marvin Lewis’ tenure with the Bengals (2003-present) in which the turnover differential has not been even, the team who wins the turnover battle has posted a 20-2 record. Putting it another way, the Bengals are 10-0 against the Ravens with a plus turnover differential, and 2-10 with a minus. Looking at it from Baltimore’s view, the Ravens are 10-2 with a plus and 0-10 with a minus. 

Cincinnati leads 6-2 in Lewis’ tenure in games against Baltimore in which the turnover margin was even. Last season, the Ravens won the first meeting (Game 1, Sept. 10 at Cincinnati) with a plus-four turnover margin, while the Bengals won the second meeting (Game 16, Dec. 31 at Baltimore) with an even differential. Overall, Lewis owns an 18-12 record against Baltimore.

Bengals-Ravens connections: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was Ravens defensive coordinator from 1996-2001 and earned a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 World Champions ...Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is from Perrysburg, Ohio, played defensive back at Miami (Ohio) University, and coached at Morehead State (1988) and the University of Cincinnati (’89-96)...Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban was on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2011-17 ... Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin coached for the Ravens from 2011-13 ... Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons entered NFL coaching with the Ravens in 1998 ... Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale is from Dayton, Ohio, played at Defiance College from 1981-84, and coached at Defiance (’86-87) and the University of Cincinnati (’96-98) ...Bengals CB Tony McRae was with the Ravens briefly in 2017 ... Ravens WR Chris Moore played at the University of Cincinnati ... Ravens QB Lamar Jackson played at the University of Louisville .. Ravens OLB Za’Darius Smith played at the University of Kentucky ... Ravens DE Chris Wormley is from Toledo, Ohio (Whitmer High School) ... Ravens G/C Matt Skura is from Columbus, Ohio (Worthington Kilbourne High School) ... Ravens ILB Bam Bradley (Physically Unable to Perform) is from Trotwood, Ohio (Madison High School) ... Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney was on the Ravens staff from 1996-98 ...Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Jeff Friday was on the Ravens staff from 1999-2007 ...Bengals secondary/cornerbacks coach Daronte Jones is from Annapolis, Md., played at Morgan State University from 1997-2000 and coached at Bowie State University from 2005-09 ... Bengals strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton was assistant S/C coach for the Ravens from 1999-2001 ...Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack is from Camp Springs, Md. ... Ravens secondary coach Chris Hewitt played at the University of Cincinnati from 1993-96 ... Ravens special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg coached at the University of Cincinnati from 1992-95 ...Ravens senior offensive assistant Craig Ver Steeg coached at the University of Cincinnati from 1990-93.

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