Ravens vs. Bengals: Baltimore's Biggest Winners & Losers from Week 17
Although the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 23-17, this is not a game to take too much stock in. The game had a preseason feel as both the Ravens and Bengals benched starters in a game that had very little impact on the AFC Playoffs.
The Bengals backups proved to be a little better as they got the team a win, and now both teams finish the year with a 10-6 record. Thankfully by virtue of a better division record, the Ravens will get a home playoff game next week against the Indianapolis Colts.
Obviously there's very little to compare between a de-facto preseason game and a postseason game. Almost every single Ravens starter worth anything was on the sideline by the second half. This means that this week's winners and losers will largely come from untested backups who didn't figure to play big roles in the postseason.
Here's the players that stuck out in the Week 17 loss to the Bengals.
Winner: Bernard Pierce
One thing that this game showed was that the Ravens have a powerful run game, even without Ray Rice. Rice had three carries for five yards, yet the Ravens still put up 207 total rushing yards.
Bernard Pierce showed himself a capable lead back with 89 rushing yards on 10 attempts. This is nothing new though to anyone who's watched Pierce this season. With his first 100 rushing yard game and a career-long 78-yard run last week, Pierce has been heating up as the season comes to an end.
As much as this league is about quarterbacks play, it's incredibly helpful to have a power run game. Particularly in the freezing cold or inclement weather that is most probable in many outdoor stadiums this time of year.
If Caldwell can keep both Rice's and Pierce's carries up, that takes some pressure away from Joe Flacco. It also gives the Ravens one of the top one-two punches of the AFC teams. Because of this, Pierce may be the only starting offensive player from this week to make a huge impact in the postseason.
Loser: Justin Tucker
Justin Tucker had only his third missed field goal of the entire season. Unfortunately, it came at a crucial moment and prevented the Ravens from taking a four-point lead.
The missed kick came from 45 yards out and it brought about a disappointing end to a six-play drive that had started in promising field position for the Ravens. The Bengals would then capitalize with 10 points over the next two drives.
Tucker did make up for it with a 49-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. The two-score possession was not ideal for the backups on offense, though, and they took far too long getting the field goal. With only 1:21 left in the game, the Ravens had to recover an onside kick, which is a position no offense ever wants to be in.
Not surprisingly, the Ravens did not recover Tucker's onside kick. Still, going 30-for-33 in your rookie season as a kicker is incredibly impressive. The Ravens have taken a weakness and made it a strength, and there's certainly every reason to be comfortable with Tucker taking the Ravens kicks this postseason.
Winner: Paul Kruger
With Terrell Suggs not suiting up this week, Paul Kruger started instead. He continued to play well, adding a sack and a tackle to his impressive 2012 stats.
Kruger will close out the 2012 season as the team's leader in sacks, getting nine sacks this year. He's gotten at least one sack in six games and has consistently provided a pass rush over the second half of this season.
With free agency coming up in the offseason, Kruger has certainly provided more leverage for the Ravens to bring him back next season. He's still technically a backup, however, we should still see him lots in the postseason, particularly if Suggs's bicep injury acts up.
Loser: Chykie Brown
The Bengals' two quarterbacks threw for 143 passing yards against the Ravens, so overall it wasn't too bad of a game for the Ravens secondary. They allowed only one passing touchdown, this one coming from Marvin Jones in the second quarter. The play was a screen which saw both Paul Kruger and Chris Johnson fail to get the tackle on Jones, who hadn't scored prior to this game.
Jones' receiving touchdown was arguably the biggest passing play of the game. The second biggest though might have been a 44-yard completion from backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to Brandon Tate.
On this play, Chykie Brown was covering Tate and he clearly got burned. It was the only big play Brown gave up today, but it was a costly one as it helped the Bengals get a field goal and a two-point lead.
Brown has played sparingly, trying to cement his spot as the No. 3 corner on the Ravens roster. He's had some rough plays over the last few games, but it's hard to see him impacting too much at corner going forward.
Winner: Ma'ake Kemoeatu
Ma'ake Kemoeatu had his best game with the Ravens this season. He had four tackles and even got a sack, his first of the year.
Kemoeatu made an impact in the running game too, getting up and stopping the runners at the line of scrimmage. The Bengals leading rusher was Brian Leonard and he only finished with 34 rushing yards.
With 47 net yards running, the Bengals had a very bad day running the ball. Kemoeatu deserves some credit for this, along with help from Bryan Hall and Dannell Ellerbe. Kemoeatu's improved a little with the season winding down and it looks like he'll be the Ravens best hope at nose tackle during the playoffs.
Loser: Tyrod Taylor
All the Joe Flacco haters can shut up now. Because Tyrod Taylor, the only viable option to replace Flacco, is clearly nothing special as a quarterback.
Taylor finished with 149 passing yards in his first NFL game, getting significant playing time. He didn't throw any touchdowns but he put up a lot of rushing yards, finishing with 65 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Taylor is actually not all that different from the NFL's most popular backup quarterback, Tim Tebow. Both Taylor and Tebow can make plays out of nothing with their awesome scrambling abilities. Taylor had two carries of over 15 yards, which is something that Ravens fans know they will never see from Flacco.
Like Tebow, though, Taylor isn't that great at passing the ball yet. He was only 15-of-25 and he had a lot of trouble completing deeper passes. He also struggled when it counted most, throwing a late fourth quarter interception that Carlos Dunlap took back for a touchdown.
The Ravens have to be thankful that Flacco is healthy and starting for the team in the playoff run. Because I'm not sure if Taylor has what it takes to step in and play well as quarterback at this point in his career.
Winner: Anthony Allen
Let's not give all the credit for the good rushing today to Bernard Pierce. While both he and Tyrod Taylor enjoyed over 60 rushing yards, Anthony Allen had a good day for himself, as well.
Allen put up 41 rushing yards on the day on 10 attempts. He added a score, as well, with a two-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
This was only the fourth game that Allen has appeared in during the 2012 season. He's been getting phased into the offense a little more, although it's clear that he's not going to be supplanting Pierce as the No. 2 option anytime soon. Still the 41 rushing yards puts up confidence that Allen can help in the offense if something happens to the two players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Loser: Bobbie Williams
Bobbie Williams had a disappointing game, despite facing the motivation of going against his former team. On the same drive, he had both a 15-yard penalty and a false start.
The fourth quarter also saw a four-yard run get nullified by a Williams hold. Overall he did a mediocre job in place of Marshal Yanda at right guard.
Yanda likely could have gone if he really needed to this week. The Ravens best offensive lineman should return in time for the playoffs. Meanwhile, Williams will try to get the left guard position back, although he could face competition from Ramon Harewood and Jah Reid.