CINCINNATI -- The same truck that ran over the Ravens in October rumbled through Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday and flattened them again. Same unrelenting pass rush. Same playmaking cornerbacks. Same trademark Bengal stripes.
As if to prove the first time was no fluke, the Cincinnati Bengals derailed the Joe Flacco Express for the second time in a month. They turned the Ravens' offense into roadkill and Baltimore's 4-4 season into a mystery novel.
"If you look at the tape, they've played well all year," Flacco said after Sunday's 17-7 loss to the Bengals. "They just play good team defense. If you look at it, you know why: They do a good job stopping the run. ... When I was putting the ball up to the receivers, they were around the ball, giving themselves a chance to make a play."
The Ravens had nowhere to throw and nowhere to hide in Cincinnati. Flacco took a season-high four sacks - three in a row in a grim finish - and threw two interceptions, matching another season high. For the second straight time against the Bengals' reinvigorated defense, he was able to get the Ravens in the end zone only once.
This loss was a virtual rerun of the first loss, in fact.
In October's 17-14 loss in Baltimore, the Ravens converted three of 11 third downs. Sunday, they converted one of 10.
In October, they had 257 total yards. This time, they had 215.
In October, they had 10 penalties for 76 yards. This time, they had seven for 80.
The Bengals had a week to tweak - the defense, that is - and although Flacco minimized the changes, Cincinnati had all the answers.
Wide-out Derrick Mason, shut out in the October game, had only one catch for 6 yards through three quarters (he finished with three receptions for 31 yards). Kelley Washington, a favorite third-down target, had one catch for 10 yards.
"They're not doing anything that's very complicated," Flacco said. "The stuff they do, they do it well. They fly around to the ball and make good plays. They made good plays on the outside [in the passing game] at times, and they did a good job up the middle."
The Ravens had a success rate of 48.4 percent on third down coming in, but hit just 10 percent this week.
"They mixed up coverages," coach John Harbaugh said. "They do a good job of that. They mixed them up on third down, and they have a nice pressure package when they get you to third down, especially third-and-long."
Said Flacco: "They're always going to roll [the pass coverage] and stuff like that, but I was seeing it well and we were seeing it well. They just did a good job of playing."
Flacco completed 18 of 32 passes for 195 yards but often was throwing into coverage. It got him into trouble in the second quarter when he underthrew Mason on a deep ball and Leon Hall picked it off. He threw his second interception on the opening series of the second half, heaving a jump ball for Mark Clayton near the goal line. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph caught it at the 3 instead.
Flacco would have had two more interceptions if not for dropped balls by the Bengals later in the second half.
Another slow start proved vexing. The Bengals got 17 points on their first three possessions while the Ravens punted on each of their first three possessions.
"For whatever reason, we just haven't been able to consistently get it going in the first quarter, first half," Washington said. "When a team jumps out on you 7-0, 14-0, you've got to be able to match that. You've got to be able to match their production, you've got to be able to match their intensity. Especially on the road. We just came out flat."
The Ravens didn't turn it on until Flacco manufactured a 65-yard touchdown drive that overcame two offensive line penalties. Ray Rice, held to 48 rushing yards, pounded the ball in from the 10 on two carries to avert a shutout.
But a missed 38-yard field-goal attempt by Steve Hauschka - wide left again - crippled any potential comeback.
"We definitely felt like we were in the game at the end," said Flacco, who has thrown four interceptions in the two games against the Bengals this year. "We go down and get the seven points, we get the turnover and the ball on the [Cincinnati 47]. Any sort of points are going to be good there. We'd like to get a touchdown there, but we come away with none. That killed us. Even then, we still had some time to put some points on the board."
The next time the Ravens got the ball, Flacco was sacked on three consecutive plays.
He didn't get the license plate, but he knows the truck.