The last man to touch the ball in their last victory in Baltimore before Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson took over the rivalry has some sound advice for the Bengals in their bid to emerge with victory Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in a game for first place in the AFC North.
And wide receiver Tyler Boyd didn't confine his observations to offense.
"Minimize Lamar," Boyd said this week. "Minimize his scramble ability and him throwing down the field because they've done a ton of that. Have to make sure the pocket stays condensed.
"And then with the offense, we've just got to protect and make plays as receivers. It's not that hard. They blitz a lot and we'll probably see a lot of man coverage. All we've got to do is win our routes and the rest will speak for itself."
It will be recalled that Boyd knocked the last edition of the Joe Flacco Ravens out of the playoffs in the final 44 seconds of the 2017 season on that fourth-and-12 pass from Andy Dalton at the Baltimore 49.
That was also the last play before the Ravens promoted Don "Wink" Martindale to defensive coordinator, so you can blame Boyd and Dalton for the miseries that have followed. Since Jackson and Martindale have been a team, the Bengals haven't scored more than 21 points against the Ravens and haven't scored a touchdown against them since 2019.
"That's what really set my career. That's what made me who I am now," Boyd said. "Every time we play the Ravens I always feel that. Every game that's what goes through my mind is that play and how much more clips I want to make against them like that. Make a game winning catch or touchdown or just make great plays. Those are the games that show who you are. The division games are the toughest and recognize you for who you are."
The Ravens didn't blitz that last snap in 2017, but they showed it before bailing out. Martindale has kept that pressure-oriented style that has been their hallmark no matter the defensive coordinator and when Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow sees it for a second time it's a scheme Martindale has weaponized in his fourth year with a ton more different looks.
"They load the box, they have every guy on the line of scrimmage show blitz and they change up looks like that," Boyd said. "I know Burrow is a smart enough guy to see it and not get too pressured. He's poised back there. He knows what's going on. He'll put us in the best situation to win."
That didn't happen when Burrow was a rookie last season. Martindale unleashed it on him with a bevy of free runners and hit Burrow 15 times, sacked him seven times and forced two fumbles. Boyd thinks they're better prepared.
"That's an area where we're maximizing it the most right now," Boyd said. "We're trying to find ways to help Joe and pick up those free runners so he's not getting hit and they're not getting back there in a second so we can have time to get out in our routes and make plays for him. They can bluff it and change the look up as well. Joe's a smart enough guy to determine that, but we need all 11 guys to do their job.
"We need all the guys up front and the running back and tight end to help blocking. And us receivers, we've got to get out there and run a clean route for Joe to throw it if he has a clean pocket."
Boyd says the Ravens have the best secondary the Bengals have faced and the current speculation is Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey is going to follow Bengals red-hot rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. Humphrey "traveled" with the Chargers' Mike Williams last week and held him to two targets and one catch for a yard, according to Pro Football Focus.
But Boyd says the absence of the other Pro Bowl cornerback, Marcus Peters, is a big advantage for the Bengals. He's been playing seven years and already has 31 interceptions, three of them against the Bengals, one for a pick-six.
They've replaced him with Anthony Averett and Boyd has noticed.
"I think it's a huge loss. In my opinion I feel like a lot teams are going at 23. Averett," Boyd said. "I feel like he's a good player, but if a lot of guys are going to him for success then that's what we've got to do. Not to say we're not going at Marlon or (Tavon) Young, but at the end of the day we have to find opportunities to make plays."
But Boyd feels like the offense isn't under pressure to keep pace with Jackson. That always hasn't been the case, but that's how much he believes in the Bengals defense.
"I feel like we have a team that can take the AFC North," Boyd said. "Previous years (felt pressure to score) yes, but now no because we know we have a solidified defense that can go out there and play against any offense. I feel like we have one of the best defenses in the league and I'm very, very confident in every position on the field. Even with special teams, defense to the offense, as long as we stay sound and schemed up then like I said, I believe we'll walk out of there victorious."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said after Friday's practice running back Samaje Perine should be good to go after returning to practice Thursday following a stint on the COVID list that knocked him out of last Sunday's game in Detroit …
He also said they don't have set roles behind running back Joe Mixon since they believe Perine and rookie running back Chris Evans can both catch, protect and run. Evans did all of that well in Detroit last week and it will be interesting to see how they rotate him with Perine …
It's the healthiest the Bengals have going into a game in what seems years. Rookie defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin has been sent home with an illness, but he has yet to be active. The only player who was there Friday who was limited was backup cornerback Jalen Davis (ankle).