The Paul Brown Stadium sellout crowd of 63,439 came to play Sunday and made themselves loud and clear during the Bengals 24-16 loss to the Ravens in the season finale. Spurred on by the scoreboard that showed defensive players like Domata Peko asking for noise and sackmaster Geno Atkins holding a down marker with No. 3 on it. Peko also appeared on the board early in the game with a thank you for the sellout.
"We were talking on the sidelines how we felt like we were in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL," Peko said. "They were jumping today and we really appreciate them."
Rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who only played one quarter in the season's other sellout against the Steelers, enjoyed the atmosphere.
"They had our back," Green said.
Atkins didn't get a sack Sunday and finished with a team-leading eight and in a tie with Dan Wilkinson for most sacks by a Bengals defensive tackle in a season. The Bengals could only get to Joe Flacco once Sunday (Carlos Dunlap) and that was a big reason he went 15-of-19 for 130 yards and a rating of 112.7. Most of the time he had plenty of time to throw.
FLAG DAY: The fans were booing at halftime, but it seemed directed more at the officials than the Bengals 17-3 deficit. The Ravens had just gone 80 yards for a touchdown helped by three Bengals penalties, one a holding call on cornerback Nate Clements on third down. Safety Reggie Nelson was also called for hitting a defenseless receiver high after a 20-yard gain by tight end Ed Dickson, which Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis disputed.
"The Ravens are a team that has committed more defensive penalties than anyone in the NFL, and I don't think they got called for one today," Lewis said. "The film will be interesting to look at. Overall, we must do a better job eliminating our penalties. Some of the plays we were called for didn't look like penalties. However, those particular plays were called, and we must overcome them."
Green appeared to get mauled in the end zone on the last play of the game, a Hail Mary from quarterback Andy Dalton into the end zone and left tackle Andrew Whitworth said, "There were a few maulings out there," and "It felt like we were playing two teams."
Asked if he got interfered with Green said, "You can't call everything in the NFL."
MINUTE RICE: It was pretty clear how Ravens running back Ray Rice popped touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards. The front seven couldn't get off hellacious blocks by a pair of Pro Bowlers, right guard Marshal Yanda and fullback Vonta Leach.
"(Rice) is one of the best in the league," Peko said. "If you don't do your job, he'll find the gap and he did it twice today … Coach (Mike) Zimmer thinks of Emmitt Smith. He makes every cut and he runs hard … if we have a chance of winning next week we can't do that. We can't let Arian Foster or (Ben) Tate do that to us."
COVER 2: For the second straight game Green was held to just two catches and Dalton couldn't get anything longer than 31 yards to his wide receivers and that came with 1:05 left in the game on a ball to Jerome Simpson.
Gruden said he was surprised how much Cover 2 the Ravens played. In the Nov. 20 game, the Bengals were able to get two 40-plus yarders without Green, their biggest deep threat. On Sunday, Green's longest catch was 18 yards on a slant.
"They were clouding my side," Green said. "It's tough with Ed Reed clouding you with his ball skills."
The one touchdown came on running back Bernard Scott's longest run of the year, a 25-yard zone play that he bounced outside and rode the blocks of the left side of the line as well as Green and rookie wide receiver Ryan Whalen's block on cornerback Chris Carr.