Baltimore Sun reporters, columnists and editors share their immediate reaction to the Ravens' game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Jeff Zrebiec, reporter: All the attention in the days ahead is going to be on the offensive pass interference call that took away what could have been a game-winning touchdown catch by Steve Smith. But it shouldn't be. The Ravens had the lead, all the momentum in the game and had a struggling Andy Dalton on his own 20-yard line facing a third-and-10 and needing to drive the length of the field to get a touchdown. Dominique Franks and Terrence Brooks absolutely can't get beat deep on that 53-yard reception by Mohamed Sanu. But it happened and, as a result, the Ravens lost for the fifth time in the past six games at Paul Brown Stadium, fell back into second place and now must overcome getting swept by the Bengals in the season series. Joe Flacco needs to play much better. The receivers need to do a better job against press coverage. The defense has to make stops at the end of the game. That should be the focus, not the offensive pass interference call.
Aaron Wilson, reporter: The game was there for the taking, but the Ravens' defense broke down in the final minutes in a 27-24 defeat as Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton scored the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak up the middle on fourth down. That decisive drive included a coverage breakdown by Ravens rookie safety Terrence Brooks and cornerback Dominique Franks on a 53-yard reception by wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Then, wide receiver Steve Smith committed an offensive pass interference penalty that nullified a potential comeback touchdown. Smith grabbed safety George Iloka's jersey and then pulled him down to the ground. The Ravens were ultimately too injury-riddled and hurt by a substandard game from quarterback Joe Flacco to pull out the win at Paul Brown Stadium. The Ravens had some timely defensive plays by safety Matt Elam, who ripped the football out of Sanu's hands to allow rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley to intercept a throw by Dalton to set up a 53-yard field goal by Justin Tucker, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata forced Dalton to fumble with middle linebacker Daryl Smith returning it to the Bengals' 10-yard line to set up a go-ahead touchdown by rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.
Peter Schmuck, columnist: The Ravens will be smarting from this one for awhile, but Steve Smith did appear to push off on that 80-yard, disallowed touchdown that would have kept them in first place in the AFC North. It was a tough loss, but far from a fatal one. The Ravens need to take care of business in Pittsburgh and they'll be in decent shape going into the second half of the season.
Childs Walker, reporter: It's easy to imagine this one haunting the Ravens come December. With a commanding AFC North lead on the table, they simply couldn't stop the Bengals from stealing the game with a big play. That's twice now in 2014. The formula is becoming clear. When the Ravens harass the quarterback consistently and avoid turnovers, they win big. When they don't, the games get hairy. They almost won anyway because of great individual plays by Haloti Ngata and Matt Elam. But realistically, this was the dicey version of the 2014 Ravens -- still probably a playoff team but maybe not a world beater.
Jon Meoli, reporter: The Ravens defense allowed three scores in three trips into the red zone, which was the biggest difference in this game -- not that anyone else played particularly well. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw one bad interception and one unlucky one. His receivers couldn't get much separation all game, and the failure to punch it in on fourth-and-1 on the opening drive proved to be the difference in the game. If Jimmy Smith is out for any substantial amount of time, this team is in trouble.
Ron Fritz, sports editor: Say what you want about the flop by the Bengals defensive back on Steve Smith's reception in the last minute, but the game was lost because Joe Flacco turned the ball over twice and coach John Harbaugh again went for a touchdown on fourth down instead of taking the points on the road. It was early in the game, but the Ravens lost by three points. It's sad that the Ravens defense can play really great at times, but when they need a stop, they can't get one.