Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after Sunday’s 49-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals possessed the ball for almost 13 more minutes than the Ravens and ran 26 more offensive plays.
Box score numbers such as those typically tell the story of a defense that gave up gaudy numbers and failed to get off the field on third down. The disparity wasn’t as much about the Bengals’ offensive execution, but rather a Ravens team that continued a recent trend of defensive scoring.
The Ravens defense scored two touchdowns in Sunday’s 49-13 blowout win, bringing its season total to five. With seven games left, the Ravens are looking to break the NFL mark for most defensive touchdowns in a season, held by the Seattle Seahawks in 1998 and the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 with 10.
The Ravens’ league-leading five defensive touchdowns have all come in the team’s past three games, in which the defense has forced seven turnovers. The franchise single-season record for defensive touchdowns is seven, set in 2004.
Down 21-3 late in the second quarter, the Bengals entered the red zone, looking to cut into a three-score deficit before the end of the half.
Bengals rookie quarterback Ryan Finley dropped back to pass and stared down wide receiver Alex Erickson, who ran an out route. Cornerback Marcus Peters was in coverage and jumped the route for the interception, returning it 89 yards for the touchdown.
“It’s something that we just tell ourselves as a defense,” Peters said after the game. “We’re a fast-playing defense and we want to play fast and create turnovers. [We just] practice, prepare every week.”
It was Peters’ second defensive touchdown since acquired from the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 15 and his third of the season. According to Pro Football Reference, Peters joins Hall of Famers Lem Barney and Ken Houston as the only players with six interceptions returned for touchdowns in their first five seasons.
“He’s a very, very smart football player,” safety Earl Thomas III said of Peters. “He understands concepts and when you want to do it, and he took advantage of the matchup. It’s crazy. He’s catching it in stride, nobody is in front of him and he’s pick-sixing it.”
Later in the game, with the Ravens up 42-10, fullback-defensive lineman Patrick Ricard broke through the protection to sack Finley — his first career sack — and force a fumble.
The ball landed right in front of outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, looping around on a stunt, and he recovered the fumble, returning it 33 yards for the score.
The defensive scores seem to come in bunches and in varying scenarios: When the team is reeling and needs a momentum-swinging play (cornerback Marlon Humphrey’s 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown against the New England Patriots) or when everything is rolling (Bowsers’ 33-yard scoop-and-score).
The defense has also managed to bait and take advantage of some of the NFL’s most savvy passers — Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — and now one of the league’s most raw in Finley.
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“I think we’re intense. I think we run to the ball,” coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “We’ve struggled getting turnovers at times in the past, but to get them and put it in the end zone is just guys making plays. The players deserve all the credit in the world for that.”
The turnovers are the perfect consolation prize for a defense that hasn’t sacked the quarterback consistently this season. The Ravens defense sacked Finley just twice Sunday and often lost containment, despite facing one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
Thomas, who also recovered a fumble in the third quarter, joked after the game, saying, “We’re trying to get the record,” a reference to the yet-to-be-reached single-season total of 11 defensive touchdowns.
“It’s definitely a momentum thing when we take the ball away,” Thomas said. “It’s happening more and more. We got a lot of great players, especially in the secondary, and we’re getting our hands on it."