The Ravens improved their record to 5-0 at home and more importantly 3-0 in the division here. This was a much-needed win after playing down to the Seahawks the previous week on the road. The Bengals are now 1-2 in the division and a little less pleased, as moral victories just don’t feel as good as the real thing. At a surprising 6-4 they are still in good shape to make a playoff run after a pair of solid efforts against their toughest division rivals in consecutive weeks. They’ll have to win at least one of the rematches to have a serious shot at the postseason.
As could be expected, this game was mostly about defense, despite the not-so-modest 31-24 final score. Seven of 15 Cincinnati drives lasted four plays or less, while an eighth lasted six plays but netted only nine yards. The Ravens had five drives go 3-and-out. They did make some big plays and turned three turnovers into 14 points. Baltimore had a comfortable early in the fourth quarter when the Bengals nearly pulled to within a field goal. Jermaine Gresham was initially credited with a 9-yard touchdown reception until the so-called Calvin Johnson rule caused the play to be overturned.
Bengals – Three Performances of Note
A Mixed Bag of Receiving Performances
The Bengals entered the game without their prized rookie receiver in A.J. Green who was sidelined with a hyperextended knee sustained last week against Pittsburgh. Cincinnati knew they needed some other players to contribute in the passing game since running consistently against the Ravens isn’t usually a winning formula. What they got was a wide range of receiving performances here. Jerome Simpson (+3.2) and Andre Caldwell (-3.8) each played nearly the entire game in Green’s absence. They missed a combined five snaps but what they did with their playing time didn’t quite match up. In fact, Simpson earned his first grade in the green from us this year in fine style. On the other hand, Caldwell graded out worse than any other game in the 2011 season. Simpson’s sole blemish was a dropped pass, but he made a number of plays in a multitude of ways. His impressive array included hauling in a deep pass, a leaping toe-tap effort on the sideline at 1:24 second quarter, and hustling to knock the ball out of Jimmy Smith’s hand on an interception return. Caldwell, meanwhile, beat Smith in man coverage for a long touchdown but did little outside of that … and all three of Andy Dalton’s (+2.2) interceptions were intended for Caldwell. On a side note, undrafted rookie Andrew Hawkins (+1.2) might have earned additional playing time with four receptions for 47 yards on the day.
Atkins Diet for the Ravens’ O-Line
In a 2011 season filled with strong efforts, second-year defensive tackle, Geno Atkins (+5.8) put on his best all-around performance yet against the Ravens. His strong game was even more important than usual as no other Bengal recorded more than one pressure as Carlos Dunlap was limited to 13 snaps due to a hamstring injury. Atkins was solid against the run but even better rushing the passer as all five Baltimore offensive linemen graded negatively on at least one play against him. Registering a sack, three hits, and a pressure besides, Atkins got pressure on 24% of the plays he went after Joe Flacco—an impressive feat for a DT—but his most impressive play came in the run game. With 2:14 left in the second quarter, Atkins drove PFF’s top-ranked guard, Marshal Yanda, deep into the backfield before finishing the play with a tackle of Ricky Williams for a 5-yard loss.
Bucking the Trends
Rookie Andy Dalton leads the league’s highest-scoring offense inside of the final two minutes of both halves. He isn’t a stranger to atypical quarterbacking performances, but his game against the Ravens was about as atypical as it gets. Dalton had a rather up-and-down performance on his way to 373 passing yards, but the “ups” and “downs” weren’t quite what you’d expect. Under pressure, Dalton completed six passes in 14 drop-backs for 125 yards without an interception or touchdown. 12.5 yards per attempt while under pressure is more than any coach could ask for, especially out of a rookie. However, Dalton didn’t have the same level of success when he had time to throw. He completed 18 of 35 pass attempts against no pressure, for an acceptable but less exciting, 7.1 yards per attempt and had his three picks. His performance under pressure is encouraging, as was his ability to lead a comeback down 31-14. Ultimately, the interceptions proved to be the difference in the game and Dalton is probably more disappointed in himself for making those throws than he is proud of his yardage output since he didn’t get the win.
Ravens – Three Performances of Note
Shouldering Their Fair Share of the Offense
Despite producing 31 points, the Ravens’ offense didn’t have the greatest of days, collectively. Besides a lone touchdown catch-and-run from Anquan Boldin, the Ravens received few productive offensive contributions outside of Torrey Smith (+2.1) and Ray Rice (+2.8). After the final whistle blew, Smith and Rice had combined for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Besides scoring once himself, Smith opened one drive with a tough falling catch for an under-thrown ball and followed it up with a 49-yard reception that set up another touchdown. Rice picked up 75 of his 104 rushing yards after contact and forced a pair of missed tackles to complement his two-touchdown performance. Without the production of Smith and Rice, it’s fair to wonder if the Ravens would have been able to score an offensive touchdown, let alone win the game.
Defensive Subs String Together Strong Performances
Reserve defensive linemen Pernell McPhee and Paul Kruger both made plays in limited action last week and both were rewarded with more playing time. What was this week’s result? McPhee (+3.8) forced pressure on the final two plays of the game including a game-winning sack on fourth-down and Kruger (+4.0) rushed Dalton’s throws five times in 27 opportunities. For Kruger it was the third game graded in the green in his last four, and his fourth straight positive grade. McPhee improved upon the +3.3 grade he earned last week, which had been the rookie lineman’s highest grade in his young career. If young players like McPhee and Kruger continue to play well, the Ravens will be a dangerous team with depth in the postseason.
Household Safety is a Must
The Ravens got some positive plays from every member of their secondary, but the cornerbacks also gave up some plays to balance out their performances. Lardarius Webb made a nice effort in diving to secure an interception, but also allowed three first down receptions. More precisely, he gave up two receptions as well as a pass interference penalty on third down. Safeties Bernard Pollard (+1.6) and Ed Reed (+2.8) however, were more consistent. Pollard did miss a pair of tackles, but he also recorded a sack and made a few tackles near the line of scrimmage in the run game. Reed didn’t allow any passes to be completed in his coverage while also intercepting a deep ball and coming up big with a diving pass breakup with 50 seconds remaining in the game.
– Adam Jones (-1.7) recorded seven tackles, but not a single one constituted a defensive stop.
– Seven of Jerome Simpson’s eight catches and 144 of 152 yards were in RCB Cary Williams’ coverage.
– If Marshal Yanda’s substandard game seems out of the ordinary, it is: His -1.3 overall grade by PFF was the worst he’s been given since Week 6 in 2009, when he was playing right tackle.
PFF Game Ball
Who earned 104 yards on the ground in while being the second-most productive option in the passing game? With all due respect to the rookies Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee, Ray Rice did too much to not give him an illustrious PFF game ball here.