The Ravens put the Bengals in their vintage time of possession vise and squeezed out a 27-24 win Sunday at Paycor Stadium.
Baltimore had the ball more than 33 minutes and with the game on the line with 2:48 left, got two more first downs, one on quarterback Lamar Jackson's third-and-three 12-yard scramble. Jackson, with his 112.8 passer rating, didn't turn it over while throwing for two touchdowns and for 237 yards on 24 of 33 passing. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had a torrid second half and also finished with two touchdown passes while producing 222 yards, but couldn't overcome the game's only turnover on his rare red-zone interception.
Burrow led a swashbuckling 16-play touchdown drive that included a fourth-and-four conversion to wide receiver Tyler Boyd. On third-and-goal, Burrow got flushed immediately and threw off his back foot to hit wide receiver Tee Higgins on the right boundary for his second touchdown catch of the game to cut Baltimore's lead to 27-24 with 3:28 left in the game.
Burrow aggravated his right calf on the play. As he worked on it, backup quarterback Jake Browning warmed up. He said he would have gone back, but he's not sure about playing next Monday night here against the Rams.
Trailing 20-17, the Bengals defense had Jackson looking at a second-and-23, but he got 20 of them back on a pass over the middle to tight end Mark Andrews and when running back Gus Edwards pounded for the first down on third-and-three, the clock was running. Bengals safety Nick Scott received a concussion on the Andrews play.
Then on another third down, third-and-five, Jackson lofted a beauty to wide receiver Nelson Agholor's outside shoulder and he beat cornerback Chidobe Awuzie for a 17-yard touchdown with 11:38 left in the game that gave the Ravens a 27-17 lead
Burrow generated the offense's first touchdown of the season in the middle of the third quarter and it was an absolute must after his first interception of the season staked the Ravens to a 20-10 lead.
He responded by converting all four third downs in the drive and re-discovered wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase for four catches for 31 yards after he finished the first half with a catch for no yards. Chase had his helmet ripped off converting a third-and-three in the red zone and then Burrow threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Higgins posting up cornerback Ar'Darius Washington that cut the lead to 20-17.
The Bengals had a crushing 11-second turn on the first series of the second half, trailing, 13-10. Burrow, who threw one red-zone interception last season, threw one here on second down from the Ravens 17 for the Bengals' first and only turnover of the season. He went for Higgins at the goal line, but safety Geno Stone swung down to step in from of him at the goal line and he ran it back to his 38.
On the next snap, Jackson had time to step back and fire one down the middle of the field to fleet rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers running between cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt and safety Dax Hill and Flowers caught it with his helmet for a 52-yard play inside the 10 that set up a touchdown. A potential 17-13 lead had turned into a 20-10 deficit.
Rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones saved the first half with the Bengals' first touchdown of the season on an 81-yarder and kept them within 13-10 of the Ravens at the half.
It was 11 years and a day since the last Bengals punt return touchdown, Adam Jones' 81-yarder against Cleveland. It also marked the first time in history the Bengals' first touchdown of the season came on a punt return.
The refs threw a flag, but picked it up when they apparently decided rookie wide Andrei Iosivas' block that sprung Jones up the left sideline was not a block in the back.
The return evened out a half that the Ravens dominated with twice as much time of possession, 27 more snaps, and 225 yards to 63. Burrow had just 35 yards passing (eight for 11), but did produce two big firsts of the season on a drive midway through the second quarter.
On back-to-back plays, he found Higgins over the middle for his first two catches of the season, the last one converting a third-and-three. Running back Joe Mixon (five carries for 26 yards in half, 13 carries for 59 yards in the game), then bulled them into the red zone for the first time this season.
On the first two snaps, Burrow went check down to his backs, leaving them with a third-and-five from the Ravens 9. He went back shoulder to Chase, but cornerback Rock Ya-Sin got his right arm in there to wedge it out and Evan McPherson hit the 27-yarder with 3:01 left in the half.
The Ravens didn't get a play longer than 17 yards in the half and Jackson killed them softly with 16 of 24 passing for 141 yards and another 29 rushing. He turned two blitzes by safeties Dax Hill and Scott into gains instead of sacks and hit seven of his first seven passes. He got the clock moving just enough.
Take that first drive.
Left end Sam Hubbard spied Jackson on third-and-four and while he dropped off, Jackson found wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. over the middle in a zone for nine yards to put it on the 1.
The last time the Ravens were on the Bengals 1 was an iconic moment. Early in the fourth quarter of last year's Wild Card Game, linebacker Logan Wilson punched the ball out of the hands of Jackson backup Tyler Huntley to set up Hubbard's winning 98-yard fumble return.
But this time Jackson handed off to Edwards and he punched it in to cap a 13-play drive. Jackson deked and dunked, completing all five passes for 38 yards. And he ran out of a certain sack when he juked away from the blitzing Scott and the closing-fast Hubbard.
Exhibit A: On the first third down of the game (third-and-two), Jackson dropped back and shoved it over the middle to an open Andrews in a zone for nine yards. It was the first catch of the season for Andrews (quadricep), who didn't play last week.
But when Jackson went for Andrews on third-and-three on the third series, Dax Hill was all over him for an incompletion to force the punt that led to Charlie Jones' touchdown.