Ravens come away with 'big win' over Bengals

BALTIMORE - About 10 minutes after the Ravens held on to beat the Bengals Sunday, Baltimore safety James Ihedigbo was making his way from the field to the Ravens' locker room.
As he was walking down the hallway that leads to the locker room, Ihedigbo said loudly, "Thank the Lord. Thank the Lord."
Several minutes later, Ihedigbo said he was still in the process of unwinding as he addressed the media in the post-game interview room.
The Ravens blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead Sunday, gave up a game-tying touchdown on a Hail Mary on the last play of the fourth quarter and allowed Cincinnati to nearly drive into range for a go-ahead field goal in overtime.
They did almost everything they could to lose despite leading for most of the game. But in the end, Baltimore's defense came up big, as it did most of the day Sunday, and the Ravens' offense did enough to put Baltimore in range for a 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal that lifted the Ravens to a strange, dramatic and important 20-17 overtime win over the Bengals.
"I don't know if it was more exciting as it was one of those ones where you go afterwards, 'Phew, I'm glad we won this one,'" Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Having said that, it is a big win."
An ugly one, at least for the offense, but a big one.
With the win, the Ravens improve to 4-5 and now trail Cincinnati by just 1.5 games for first place in the AFC North.
"Where this leads us, we will find out," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "We have to get better in a whole lot of areas, individually and collectively. We have to improve as a football team. But these are the kind of games that you have to win to have a chance in this league."
And the defense is the primary reason the Ravens had a chance on Sunday.
Baltimore's offense was bad once again. Players acknowledged that. And Harbaugh, as he has after several games this season, said the offense has to be better.
The Ravens scored two touchdowns in the first half and led 17-0 at halftime, but they were held scoreless during the second half as the Bengals came back and eventually tied the game on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green as time expired in the fourth quarter.
The offense did drive 28 yards in overtime to set up Tucker's game-winning field goal after the defense stopped Cincinnati on a fourth-and-2 from Baltimore's 33-yard line, but it had just 161 yards through four quarters.
The Ravens had three possessions in the fourth quarter with a chance to milk the clock or put the game out of reach with another score. Those three drives ended with two turnovers and a three-and-out.
Flacco had likely his worst game of the season. He was just 20 of 36 for 140 yards. He had two touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions and easily could have had more than that.
Ray Rice also continues to struggle. He had just 30 yards on 18 carries and is now averaging just 2.5 yards per carry for the year, the fewest in the league among qualified running backs.
The Ravens' offensive line also continues to have issues. They struggled to create running lanes against a Geno Atkins- and Rey Maualuga-less Bengals defense and allowed five sacks.
"They played exceptionally well, [but] we certainly didn't make the plays we needed to make," Harbaugh said. "We didn't have any big chunk plays, which hurt us. Turnovers, absolutely - that will stop you every single time. We've got to run the ball better. We've got to get our passing game going, too. Those two things go hand-in-hand.
"There are plenty of things for us to look at. ... We've got to find a way to move the ball better. We will. We have to."
But for as poorly as the offense played, Baltimore's defense had maybe its best game of the season and was given a game ball afterward by Harbaugh.
Cincinnati had the fluky Hail Mary to tie the game, but quarterback Andy Dalton was otherwise just 23 of 50 for 223 yards. He had two touchdowns, including the Hail Mary, but he also had three interceptions.
The Bengals came into the game ninth in the NFL in total offense and seventh in passing offense, but they had just 313 in four-plus quarters not including the Hail Mary.
They did drive to the Ravens' 33-yard line on the first possession of overtime, but they went for the first down on fourth-and-2 and running back Giovani Bernard was stopped for an 11-yard loss after catching a screen pass from Dalton.
That gave Baltimore's offense the ball at its own 44-yard line.
Rice picked up 13 yards two plays later and Flacco found tight end Ed Dickson for eight yards two plays after that to put the Ravens in range for Tucker's game-winning field goal.
"We should've put them away a lot earlier," Rice said, "but our defense definitely bailed us out."
The win wasn't pretty, and Baltimore still has issues, but it is all of a sudden right back in the thick of the AFC playoff picture and the race for an AFC North division title heading into next week's game at Chicago.
"We put ourselves in a big hole," Ravens tight end Dallas Clark said. "All we can do is take it one week at a time and focus."