Ravens 20, Bengals 17 OT
STRATEGY: The Ravens’ belief in the spread offense is unyielding despite limited returns on their commitment, generating 189 yards on 71 snaps to average 2.7 yards per play. The shotgun formation was used 51 times with 37 no-huddles. Rarely allowing the play clock to reach single digits in the fourth quarter, clock management was suspect. Torrey Smith was targeted 14 times, nearly five above his season average. However, his production didn’t tick upward much: five receptions, 46 yards, one touchdown. Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was creative, using Haloti Ngata as an extra blocker in the red zone, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor on a reverse and sticking with the Pistol formation. Lardarius Webb was deployed as the nickel in coverage and as an extra blitzer, leading to his top performance with his first interception and six pass deflections. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ overload blitz packages with pass rushers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs lined up on the same side was effective.
PERSONNEL: Smith (70 snaps), Marlon Brown (52 snaps) and Jacoby Jones (43 snaps) were the primary receivers with Deonte Thompson and Tandon Doss down to 23 and 14 snaps, respectively. Ed Dickson (51 snaps, three catches, 28 yards) and Dallas Clark (19 snaps, one catch, one touchdown) produced more than usual. Despite a neck stinger, guard A.Q. Shipley only missed 10 plays. Ray Rice got 51 snaps, roughly twice as many as backup Bernard Pierce. Pierce outgained Rice by a yard on 10 less carries. Vonta Leach went up to 11 snaps after a season-low two snaps in Cleveland. The defensive iron men were defensive backs Matt Elam, James Ihedigbo and Jimmy Smith with middle linebacker Daryl Smith and Webb missing just a few snaps. Suggs was quiet with no sacks on 81 snaps. Rookie linebacker Arthur Brown got 27 snaps against a pass-oriented offense.
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WHAT WENT RIGHT: Andy Dalton was intercepted three times under heavy duress. He was sacked five times with Dumervil displaying speed and power for 2.5 sacks. Corey Graham tackled swift rookie Giovani Bernard for a loss in overtime on fourth down, a clutch stop leading to Justin Tucker’s game-winner. While star receiver A.J. Green caught eight passes for 151 yards and a game-tying touchdown. Marvin Jones caught one pass for two yards on seven targets. Ihedigbo was alert and opportunistic, with his first two career interceptions and Elam reacted quickly to throws to disrupt passing lanes. Sam Koch had no shanks and improved his hang time.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Joe Flacco was too erratic and inaccurate, passing for just 140 yards and two touchdowns on 20 completions. He was intercepted twice, lost a fumble and narrowly avoided two more interceptions. Obscure Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey produced three sacks and an interception. Rice didn’t break tackles, failing to shake loose from Terence Newman in the open field in a prime opportunity. Whether it's Rice's hip flexor or shaky blocking, the results are substandard. The Ravens went 3 of 16 on third down.
TURNING POINT: Bunching up and failing to account for Green, the defense had a costly lapse on Dalton’s Hail Mary pass at the end of regulation. The desperation heave bounced off of Jones’ pads, then Ihedigbo as he deflected the football directly to Green for a game-tying touchdown instead of knocking it down. The Ravens recovered from the gaffe to snap a three-game losing streak.
X-FACTOR: The defense shouldn't be overconfident against capable Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown, who replaces an injured Jay Cutler. Especially since their recent track record against journeyman backups isn’t strong, allowing three touchdowns to Jason Campbell.