The Bengals defense came to play Sunday.
BALTIMORE - They had to shake up their secondary because of injuries Sunday and while Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn't have his typical miserable day against the Bengals, he had to resort to the short game and kicker Justin Tucker to beat them, 19-14.
With starting safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) missing his first NFL game and backup Derron Smith (thigh) also out, the Bengals gave second-year cornerback Josh Shaw his first NFL start at safety and rookie safety Clayton Fejedelem his first snaps from scrimmage.
And they held up more than adequately. Shaw gutted out six tackles on a sore hip and returned to game after he missed a series with a turned ankle. Fejedelem was active with three tackles and one for a loss.
Flacco's longest completion went about three yards in the air, but wide receiver Mike Wallace broke it for 31 yards. Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who trash-talked the Bengals secondary last year en route to 186 yards, had just four catches for 20 yards. Dangerous tight end Dennis Pitta had just three catches for 34 yards.
"'89' (Smith) said I was trash. If I'm trash, what did he do today?" asked cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. "Clean that up. Who was trash today? He said what he had to say last year. I just wanted to let him know, am I trash now? '89' looked to trash me, but he didn't do anything."
Cornerback Adam Jones called defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's scheme "a hell of a game plan," as the Bengals ganged up on the run and held the Ravens running backs to 3.7 yards per carry with five tackles for loss while frustrating Flacco with two sacks and a pick.
"I think it went pretty smooth out there," Shaw said. "(Flacco) has got some fast guys out there. We didn't want balls over our heads. We wanted to stay on top of everything. The corners did a good job staying up on top and me and George (Iloka) did a good job (at safety) and Fej did a hell of a job when he came in."
Shaw, who had started seven games this season at slot cornerback, has worked at safety during training camps and OTAs, so it wasn't exactly new.
"We've got veterans in the secondary. Dre and Adam and George and George and I spent a good amount of time together," Shaw said. "Safeties have to be on a string. We have to make sure we're comfortable with one another."
While WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict is drawing headlines with his $12,500 fine for flipping off some fans last week and for flopping on Steve Smith Sunday so Smith drew an unnecessary roughness penalty, he continues to play at a high level and racked up 13 tackles for the second straight week. Left end Carlos Dunlap had a sack and forced their only turnover when one of his two tipped passes went to middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.
But the frustration is there. For the second straight week they held a team under 20 points and lost and they went out of their way to make sure they didn't put the locker room into two camps.
"I think the Bengals lost the football game. I didn't make a game-changing play, but we've got a lot of issues. We're not playing good enough to win. We all wear the same logo," Dunlap said. "Last year, we made a lot of things happen, and that's what we're missing this year collectively - from everybody that's wearing a Bengals uniform. There's a very thin line, and right now, we're not getting close enough to that line, so we're losing."
The defenders are actually saying the same things as the offensive players. Tipped passes, sacks and picks are good. But only if they turn into six points. Only if someone makes a play.
"We stopped the bleeding, but didn't make them bleed," Dunlap said.
NUGENT STRUGGLES: The contrast couldn't have been more striking. Bengals kicker Mike Nugent, who has missed all three of his tries this season from beyond 50 yards, missed his third straight extra point. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, who hasn't missed from anywhere this season, hit three field goals beyond 50 yards in the first half.
Nugent's 36-yard field goal with six minutes left that cut the lead to 19-12 could be his last act in seven seasons as the Bengals kicker. It was his fourth missed PAT in his last eight tries and in a stretch where the Bengals don't have a win in the last four games while getting outscored by 10 points, points, as they say, are at a premium.
And it was a good snap by Tyler Ott, an emergency long snapper signed the day before to replace the injured Clark Harris (groin) who held up well.
Nugent decided to try the PAT in the third quarter from the left hash instead of straight-on and he did what he did last Sunday when he missed two PATs hitting the right upright, except this time it just sailed right.
"I'm more comfortable with the ball there," Nugent said. "If you asked me to hit the game winner I'd put it on the left hash so why not for an extra point? But no matter where the ball is you have to hit. It's not a mechanical thing, I just feel better about (the ball) being there.
"I hit it poorly. I hit it really bad. I didn't deserve to make it the way it came off my foot."
As usual. No excuses. But the third-leading scorer in Bengals history may have run out of chances. He admitted it's the worst slump of his 12-year NFL career.
"I don't think so," said Nugent, asked if he's ever been through a slump like this one. "2014 was a long year. I don't know. Probably not."
Cincinnati Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens in week 12 of the regular season 11/27/2016