BALTIMORE, Md. - In one of the wildest games ever in their history, the Bengals took a 28-24 victory with 2:10 left in the game when quarterback Andy Dalton changed the play at the line and changed the course of the AFC North when he hit wide receiver A.J. Green for a seven-yard touchdown pass working out of the slot against cornerback Jimmy Smith.
That gave Green a career-high 227 yards on 10 catches in his heavyweight fight with Steve Smith Sr., who had 186 yards on 13 catches. After Smith gave the Ravens the lead with 3:56 left, Dalton got a 23-yard pass to running back Giovani Bernard and a 31-yarder to wide receiver Marvin Jones to set up the TD that dropped the Ravens to 0-3 and keeping the Bengals 3-0. Also in the mix was Mohamed Sanu's catch-and-run 19-yarder with all three wide receivers coming up huge as Dalton finished with a career-high 383 yards on 20 of 32 passing for a road warrior 122.3 for his third straight triple digit rating.
Just like last season, Green quieted a frothing-at-the-mouth M&T Bank crowd when he hooked up with Dalton for a stunning 80-yard touchdown play that regained the lead for the Bengals at 21-17 with 6:41 left.
But this time Smith almost had the final say when he outfought cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown with 3:56 left.
With Bernard picking up the blitz, Green lined up in the slot, fried safety Kendrick Lewis 20 yards down field and got the rest yard-after-catch when he simply ran over Lewis and Jimmy Smith for the 80-yarder. Then the Ravens answered with that 73-yard drive for the Smith touchdown as quarterback Joe Flacco went down flinging with 362 yards on a 92.4 passer rating.
The Bengals, looking for the kill with a 14-0 lead, had an excruciating end of the first half and beginning of the second half when two forays into the red zone yielded no points and you just had an idea the desperate 0-2 Ravens and their ravenous home crowd would not let them off the hook in a game the Bengals had well in hand.
Baltimore exploded for 17 points in a span of 15 minutes and took a 17-14 lead with 6:49 left in the game when tight end Tyler Eifert couldn't fend off outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and he sacked Dalton on the blind side and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley went 41 yards with the fumble for the touchdown.
Cincinnati Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens in week 3 of the regular season 09/27/2015
The Ravens cut the lead to 14-7 when the ageless Smith made three players miss tackles during a 50-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-five.
Then on the next drive Flacco hit wide receiver Marlon Brown at the first-down stick on third-and-21, floating it through a zone over Kirkpatrick and in front of safety Reggie Nelson. Then on an incomplete pass that would have left Baltimore with a third-and-21, Bengals linebacker Chris Carter was called for roughing Flacco.
They needed a big tackle from cornerback Leon Hall on third-and-goal from the 2 when Flacco hit wide receiver Michael Campanaro with a short pass to force Justin Tucker's 21-yard field field goal early in the fourth quarter that cut it to 14-10.
The Bengals offensive line couldn't move Baltimore in the running game in the second half as they stacked the box. And when they did, they got a crushing holding call on center Russell Bodine a few snaps after the Ravens cut it to 14-10. That wiped out Bernard's 15-yard gain and then facing third-and-long, tight end Eifert false started for their ninth penalty of the day, most of them on offense.
One Bengals' red-zone thrust ended on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-one from the Ravens 2 on the first play after the two-minute warning at the end of the first half. The other came on Dalton's first interception of the season and just the fourth red-zone interception of his career that capped the first drive of the second half.
After hitting Green turning his head to his right and then to his left to track a 48-yard bomb directly over his head running past Jimmy Smith, Dalton went for him again from the Ravens 10. Dalton lofted it up in the right corner and let him go against Smith for the win. But Smith boxed him out for pick and it never reached him.
That gave Green six catches for 120 yards, moving him into second place past Isaac Curtis on the Bengals 100-yard list with 21 games. When he caught his eighth ball in the middle of the second quarter, he had 140 yards.
The pick ignited the Ravens and it was exactly what they and their fans in their home opener lusted for. But they needed two huge plays from, who elsle? Steve Smith Sr. On third-and-five, Smith knifed over the middle for 20 yards. Then, in a game where the Ravens had already converted a fake punt at their own 30, they went for it on fourth-and-five from the 50. Flacco made a mere four-yard flip and Smith turned it into magic. He made Nelson and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur miss on the sideline and Kirkpatrick couldn't finish off the tackle at the goal line trying to get him from behind, cutting the lead to 14-7 with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
The Bengals followed their M&T Bank quick script to the word Sunday when Dalton hit a 16-yard thread-the-needle throw over the middle to wide receiver Marvin Jones gave them a 14-0 lead two minutes into the second quarter.
That stood up for the rest of the half when head coach Marvin Lewis went for it all on fourth-and-one from the Ravens 2 with two minutes left and they had a controversial touchdown taken off the board when the refs upheld a Ravens challenge. Dalton found Eifert at the goal line when he scrambled from right to left in desperation to find an open receiver. Eifert made himself available in front of safety Brynden Trawick. Eifert caught it, took three steps, and lowered his body over the goal line, but the refs ruled Eifert lost the ball when he reached the ball over the goal line and called it an incomplete pass because he didn't complete the act of catching.
That drive was all Green, making his first five catches of the day for 73 yards. With the Ravens jamming the line of scrimmage, Dalton went to the air leading 14-0. In the process of reeling off five successful third downs on seven tries in the half, Dalton drilled a 17-yarder into Green on third-and-nine from the Bengals 17 when Green beat safety Terrence Brooks to the sideline and caught it in front of Jimmy Smith. Green than ran by Smith on the right sideline for a 31-yarder before running a slant in front of Smith for 14 more.
Dalton finished the half nine of 16 for 139 yards and a 106 passer rating. The Bengals held Flacco to a 53.5 rating on 12 of 20 for 107 yards.
The second half began with cornerback Adam Jones getting his hand jammed on the kick return, but he returned.
The second touchdown came courtesy of another interception by Adam Jones of Flacco when he jumped a route on the sideline at the Ravens 30. Bengals defensive end Will Clarke backed Ravens right tackle Rick Wagner into the pocket and Flacco went late off his back foot and paid the price.
On the ensuing series, Marvin Jones drew the third penalty of the day on nickel back Rashaan Melvin and then Jones split him and the safety to catch his second TD of the season.
It was a 32-yard completion to Jones that set up the first touchdown on the Bengals' first drive of the game. Dalton then made the Pro Bowler Mosley miss at the 5 on a third-and-five scramble from the seven and he dove across the goal line to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
Those were his two completions in the game's first 21:25 on six attempts for 48 yards.
Marvin Jones found himself matched up on safety Brynden Trawick and sped by him down the left side on a double move and Dalton's pump fake. They then took advantage of three penalties in the secondary, two illegal contacts on Melvin and a hold on safety Will Hill working against Eifert.
The Bengals dodged problems of their own when on back-to-back plays Green was called for covering up tackle eligible Jake Fisher on the line of scrimmage and on the next snap Green let the ball go off his hands at the 10-yard line on a quick throw across the line and when it bounced in the air to outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, Upshaw dropped it.
The Bengals defense stopped the Ravens first two drives, executing a third-and-out on the first series. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins stuffed running back Justin Forsett for a two-yard loss and that set up Flacco's check-down pass short of the first down.
Then on the second series on third-and-five from the Bengals 33 Kirkpatrick ran step for step with wide receiver Kamar Allen down the right sideline and knocked away Flacco's bomb in the end zone. Then with the first quarter ticking away, Ravens Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker missed a rare 50-yarder wide right to keep it 7-0. He came into the game 15-for-21 from 50 yards in his career.
The Bengals then blew up their own drive on the second series. Eifert, who didn't have a catch Sundayafter 13 the first two weeks, ripped off 17 yards on a play-action screen, but center Russell Bodine was illegally down field. Then on second-and-14, the Bengals allowed their first sack of the season when safety Will Hill blitzed and Dalton had no check-down option when there was no one open down the field.
The Bengals needed to come out in the M&T Madhouse like they did in the previous two weeks during the wins over Oakland and San Diego, when they didn't allow a touchdown in the first half in building a combined 38-6 edge at halftime and 14-3 after the first quarter.
PREGAME NOTES: If it's not broke, don't fix it.
So Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis modeled his active list for Sunday's game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on the previous two weeks that put the Bengals at 2-0.
Four wide receivers were up, as were seven defensive linemen with the only change Brandon Thompson taking the place of injured defensive tackle Pat Sims (hip). Inactive again were rookie wide receiver Mario Alford, veteran wide receiver Greg Little, rookie defensive lineman Marcus Hardison, veteran defensive end Margus Hunt, veteran cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, and rookie tight end C.J. Uzomah.
It is Thompson's first appearance of the season after he played in 11 games last year and had a sack to go with 21 tackles. The only games he missed were because of a knee injury early in the year. He hurt his knee in this preseason and the Bengals went with Sims in the first two games.
Hardison, the fourth-round pick from Arizona State, injured his knee in the pre-season finale, and returned to practice last week in limited fashion. But he wouldn't be active anyway as the Bengals bring him along slowly.
The Ravens deactivated outside linebacker Jason Babin, meaning the Ravens' front seven has 132 career sacks, 90 by outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil. The only other front man with double-digit sacks is inside linebacker Daryl Smith with 27.5.