BALTIMORE — After an improbable Hail Mary pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver A.J. Green tied the game on the final play of regulation, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker booted a 46-yard field goal in overtime to give Baltimore a 20-17 win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
After getting sacked on back-to-back snaps as the game bled away in regulation, Dalton launched a 51-yard Hail Mary with no time left that got tipped twice into the arms of Green all by himself in the right corner to tie the Ravens at 17 and send the Bengals into overtime for the second time in 11 days. It marked the first time in club history Cincinnati had been involved in back-to-back OT games and its third one this season (a 27-24 win in Buffalo on Oct. 13) is also a team record.
The Bengals won the overtime coin toss and elected to receive. A mixture of Dalton quick passes and timely runs by Giovani Bernard got the Bengals to the Baltimore 33 yard-line where they faced fourth-and-two. Heading into a strong breeze, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis elected to eschew the long field goal attempt and go for the first-down conversion.
Mike Nugent had hooked a 42-yard try to the left earlier in the game into the wind.
However, the play blew up when Bernard hauled in a swing pass but was quickly bottled up near the right sideline. Similar to last week's 35-yard touchdown in Miami where he reversed field, he tried it again but the Ravens defenders caught up to him for an 11-yard loss back to the Ravens 44.
A 13-yard pass from Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco to running back Ray Rice got a first down at the Bengals 41 and later Flacco found tight end Ed Dickson for eight yards and another first down. After three more run plays netted just two yards, Tucker came on and connected on the game-winner.
After the first half From You Know Where, the Bengals tried to crawl back from a 17-0 deficit and cut it to 17-10 with 8:22 left in the game when Bernard scooted 18 yards on a screen for a touchdown set up by cornerback Terence Newman's interception.
But the offense that is supposed to carry the Bengals down the stretch betrayed them at almost every turn until the last one. Their seemingly last hope ended when Dalton threw his third interception of the game as he overthrew Green at about the Ravens 18 and safety James Ihedigbo picked off the deflection with 1:55 left. It was the second straight game Dalton suffered three picks.
But it was Ihedigbo that ended up making the last tip on the Hail Mary. That play gave Green 142 receiving yards and his fifth straight 100-yard game, a Bengals record. Flacco's 15-yard throw to tight end Ed Dickson in the middle of the field and a personal foul call on WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict as he pushed Flacco out of bounds allowed the Ravens to keep the ball for the next four minutes after Bernard's touchdown.
Yet as the defense has done time and time again this season stepped up with 4:01 left. Left end Carlos Dunlap, adding to his two sacks, forced Flacco to fumble in the pocket and SAM linebacker James Harrison recovered at midfield.
Dalton then converted a third-and-long with a 12-yard run to the Ravens 37 when he spun away from Ihedigbo, but then he threw that third interception as the Bengals worked into the wind.
The Bernard touchdown was the only glimmer of offense as Bernard used a peel-back block by left guard Clint Boling to finish off a drive that Dalton kept alive moments before with a zone-read run on fourth-and-two.
With the Bengals suffocating a Baltimore offense that was outgained by Cincinnati's penalty yards in the first half (114-94), the Bengals cut the lead to 17-3 on the second half's first series on Nugent's 32-yard field-goal. But they couldn't punch it in from the red zone and on the next series they lost valuable time and field position when wide receiver Marvin Jones couldn't put away Dalton's throw at his chest and Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb wrestled it from him at the Baltimore 49 for Dalton's second interception of the day.
But a defense led by backup Bengals middle linebacker Vincent Rey's third sack of the day (the first Bengal to get three sacks in a game since Michael Johnson last season) forced another punt to keep the game close.
Green made a juggling 43-yard catch between two Ravens to get the Bengals past midfield, but their third-down woes (they missed 11 out of their first 13) continued. This one got negated when cornerback Jimmy Smith got his hand out at the last minute to knock away a pass intended for Green on the sideline at the Ravens 25.
It was one of Dalton's worst efforts and he didn't get a lot of help. When he got sacked on back-to-back snaps by rush linebacker Elvis Dumervil early in the fourth quarter, his passer rating was 28.6. He finished 24-of-51 for 274 yards and a season-low rating of 52.2.
On that first drive of the second half, Dalton got sacked by Arthur Jones on second down working against right tackle Andre Smith at the Ravens 14. Then on third down he had tight end Tyler Eifert in the end zone and threw a catchable ball behind Eifert but Eifert couldn't hang on.
An unsuccessful gamble, seven penalties for a crushing 114 yards that outgained their offense (102), and sloppy execution in all three phases put the Bengals in that 17-0 hole at halftime against the Ravens.
Dalton, missing 13 of 21 passes in the first half, ended a skein of four straight incompletions when he sailed a ball intended for Eifert down the seam into the arms of Ihedigbo near midfield, and when wide receiver Mohamed Sanu went low on cornerback Corey Graham for a 15-yard penalty on the return, the Ravens had the ball at the Bengals 11 and Cincinnati had one fewer yard of offense (92) than penalty yards.
It was the first interception by a Ravens safety this season.
Flacco converted moments later when he found wide receiver Torrey Smith for a seven-yard touchdown with Smith cutting inside safety Reggie Nelson and gave the Ravens that 17-0 lead with 6:30 left in the first half.
That let the dogs out for Baltimore's NFL's third-best pass rush. Backed up on own his goal line for the last series of the half, Dalton had back-to-back passes tipped by nose tackle Haloti Ngata and Dumervil as the Bengals went into halftime blanked for the first time all season.
If the offense was supposed to pick up the banged-up Bengals defense, it literally dropped the ball in its worst half of the season. No facet of the offense surfaced with the Bengals only able to grind out 3.2 yards per carry on 17 runs (Bernard had 27 yards on seven carries and BenJarvus Green-Ellis six for 25) and if Dalton wasn't missing high, he was getting hit and ended up on his back four times even though he didn't get sacked in the half.
The Bengals looked to be in control when they won the coin flip, deferred, and started with a wind at times gusting beyond 20 miles per hour. But it quickly blew up.
Lewis wasted no time to get into the Monday morning second-guessing game when he opted on the first series to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Ravens 47 and Dalton's sneak got nothing.
Baltimore, one of the worst offenses in the NFL, then took just one play to take advantage when wide receiver Jacoby Jones ran past cornerback Adam Jones and Flacco launched a wide-open flea-flicker off Rice's flip. It wasn't a very good throw, but Nelson was called for a 48-yard pass interference at the Cincinnati 5 just five minutes into the game.
On third down from the 1, the Bengals got pressure on Flacco after a play-action fake but Flacco stayed up long enough heading to the right sideline to find tight end Dallas Clark in the back of the end zone working against safety Chris Crocker and linebacker J.K. Schaffer for Baltimore's first touchdown in the first quarter since the opener for a 7-0 lead.
Crocker was called for a holding call on the play and after an uncharacteristic short punt by Kevin Huber of 28 yards put the Ravens on their 25, Crocker was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty and that helped set up Tucker's field goal that made it 10-0 with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
Dalton had an extremely rough time and had Ravens in his face many times on his way to just 47 passing yards. He only hit five of his first 14 passes and when the Bengals had a first down from the Ravens 26 on the first play of the second quarter, he couldn't keep the ball on the field when it fluttered out of bounds as he tried to hit Sanu at the left pylon. Then on third down the Ravens ran a double linebacker blitz up the middle moving Dalton out of the pocket and he one-hopped a throw on the run to Green.
Kicking into the wind Nugent then sliced a 42-yarder wide left.
Green had just one catch for seven yards on four targets. Bernard had four of the completions for 17 yards.
The Bengals defense stood up in the half, holding the Ravens to just 94 yards but got victimized by the penalty yards. The star of the half was Rey, securing his first NFL interception when right end Michael Johnson hit Flacco's arm. Rey also came up with his second and third career sacks.
With the Bengals using a variety of players at defensive tackle on passing downs (ends Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry and SAM linebacker James Harrison), they kept Flacco at bay. He hit just nine of 18 passes for 69 yards, and the running game, as advertised, was not good. The Ravens got 18 of their 46 rushing yards on a reverse to backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
PREGAME NOTES: Those 10 mile-per-hour winds wasted no time gusting at times to a swirling pace during Sunday's pregame workouts at M&T Bank Stadium and head coach Marvin Lewis's optimism got deflated with a game-time decision.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin), who missed the last two days of practice, worked up a sweat and left the field looking like he'd be active for the Bengals against the Ravens but Lewis put him on the inactive list.
Bernard (rib) was active after he went limited all week following the injury that took him out of the last minutes of the Oct. 31 game in Miami. But just in case, the Bengals made rookie running back Rex Burkhead active for the first time this year.
With Michael Boley (hamstring) inactive, Rey got his second straight start at middle linebacker. Also inactive for the Bengals were cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, offensive linemen Tanner Hawkinson and Trevor Robinson, defensive tackle Devon Still, and middle linebackerr Rey Maualuga, out a second straight game with a knee injury.
Even though Gresham is out, the Bengals don't figure to change their heavy double tight-end look. Eifert can take Gresham's targets in the pass game and Alex Smith can take his blocking responsibilities in the run game, but it obviously takes away a big option for Dalton. Gresham has the second-most catches with 33 along with seven third-down catches. It also meant more work at tight end for H-back Orson Charles after playing 19 snaps this season.
It is Smith's first Bengals start and the 56th of his career. He started twice last season, the last one coming Nov. 18 against Dallas for the Browns. He went against Baltimore for the past three seasons in Cleveland and had three catches for eight yards against the Ravens last season.
Big stat heading into this one: The Bengals offense is third in the NFL scoring red-zone touchdowns 67 percent of the time and the Ravens defense is the second in allowing red-zone touchdowns just 32 percent of the time.