"For us to come up with this victory is obviously very satisfying," said coach John Harbaugh after his teams 19-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. (Kevin Richardson)
The Ravens hadn't beaten the Cincinnati Bengals since November 2013, so it shouldn't be surprising that when they finally broke the losing streak, it didn't come easy.
Thanks to the right leg of kicker Justin Tucker, the Ravens built a 13-point halftime lead. But they needed Elvis Dumervil's strip sack of quarterback Andy Dalton with just over a minute to play to preserve a 19-14 victory over the Bengals in front of an announced 70,903 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Needing a game-tying score, the Bengals had reached the Ravens' 16-yard line when Dumervil beat his man around the edge and stripped Dalton. Lawrence Guy recovered. The victory broke the Ravens' five-game losing streak against the Bengals and puts them into a tie for first place with the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) for first place in the AFC North.
Breshad Perriman scored the Ravens' only touchdown with a 14-yard score early in the first quarter. Tucker then did the rest, making field goals from 52, 57, 54 and 36 yards.
Trailing by 13 at halftime, the Bengals made it a one-score game on the strength of an 11-play, 86-yard drive in the third quarter. Tight end Tyler Eifert made a 25-yard reception to get the Bengals into Ravens' territory and then he got loose in the back of the end zone to make the 3-yard touchdown catch. Mike Nugent missed the extra point, keeping the score at 16-9.
The Ravens, who have struggled mightily against the Bengals' defense in recent meetings, got off to a good start with a first-drive touchdown. The rest of the first half was the Justin Tucker show, as the home team went into intermission leading 16-3.
Working essentially out of the no-huddle offense, Flacco drove the Ravens 75 yards on 11 plays. The drive featured a steady mix of passes and runs, and ended with Flacco hitting Breshad Perriman in the corner of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown was Perriman's second of the season and came after the 2015 first-round pick didn't have a catch or a target in last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Ravens got the ball for their next drive on the Bengals' 36-yard after a 28-yard return by Devin Hester Sr. The Ravens had a first down from the Cincinnati 14 after a 19-yard Flacco completion to Kamar Aiken. However, Flacco was sacked on third down and Steve Smith Sr. was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty when he had a minor altercation with Bengals agitator Vontaze Burfict after the play. That forced Tucker to attempt a 52-yarder, and he made it with ease, setting the stage for a prolific half.
The Ravens' defense blinked once in the first half as Dalton directed a 14-play, 69-yard drive that ended on Mike Nugent's 23-yard field goal. The field goal came after Dalton threw back-to-back incompletions when the Bengals reached the 4-yard line. The field goal made it a 10-3 game and was a gift of sorts because Eric Weddle dropped a routine interception early in the drive.
Flacco was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage following the field goal. His pass was tipped by Carlos Dunlap and intercepted by Rey Maualuga, who returned the interception to the Ravens' 19. However, the Bengals couldn't convert as Dalton bobbled a snap on third down and Elvis Dumervil, playing in his first game since Oct. 9, pounced on it.
The two teams then traded two punts each before the Ravens got a big play in the form of Flacco's 31-yard completion to Mike Wallace on third-and-1. The drive stalled as Flacco inexplicably ran out of bounds and took a 5-yard loss rather than throwing the ball away on third down. But it didn't matter, as Tucker connected from 57 yards.
The Ravens' defense then forced a quick punt and Flacco put Tucker in position for another field goal before the half. This one was good from 54 yards. Tucker became the first kicker in NFL history to make three field-goal attempts from more than 50 yards in the first half of a game.