In a game that had huge implications for the AFC North and the AFC playoff picture, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals 31-24. With the Steelers on their bye week, the Ravens tied Pittsburgh’s 7-3 record with the win over the Bengals. Since their two wins over the Steelers give them the tiebreaker, the Ravens are officially in control of the AFC North again.
The Bengals and the Ravens are two very similar teams that have taken different paths this season and are in different stages of team development. The Ravens are a mature team with veterans at key positions on both side of the ball, while the Bengals are a young team with up-and-coming players. But both teams play the same brand of tough football that has become a trademark of the AFC North.
What the Bengals are doing with quarterback Andy Dalton is remarkable and reminds many people of how the Ravens made the playoffs with quarterback Joe Flacco in his rookie season. The Bengals are winning games by playing good defense and allowing Dalton to manage games.
Dalton looked sensational for most of the game against the Ravens and didn’t really look like a rookie–or merely a game manager. He made big plays when the Bengals needed them most, but he also made some mistakes. Dalton threw three costly interceptions, and the Ravens were able to capitalize by scoring two touchdowns off of those three turnovers.
The turnovers were ultimately the key to the Ravens victory. The Bengals were having success throwing and running against the Ravens defense all day long, but the turnovers negated several opportunities for the Bengals to get points in a close game.
On the other hand, the Ravens made the most of their opportunities. They didn’t always look great, but when they got the ball in good field position, they made it count. When their receivers were open down the field, Flacco hit them for big plays.
That’s really what the game boiled down to.
The Ravens made the plays it took to win and the Bengals couldn’t seem to capitalize on opportunities even though they were having some success against the Ravens.