OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was harassed, hit often and under heavy duress against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
Sacked four times and hit seven times, Flacco only threw for 125 yards during the 13-7 win as the Ravens converted just 2 of 11 third downs.
"Those kind of things happen," Flacco said. "Third-down situations, they’re definitely going to come after you and put pressure on you. The best thing you can do is not turn the ball over."
Flacco was intercepted once against the Bengals for his fifth interception against them this season, but had plenty of time to throw as he was late on a deep throw to tight end Todd Heap.
"I thought I had a touchdown pass," Flacco said. "Todd Heap was wide open, and the guy came all the way from the middle of the field and made a good play."
Now, the Ravens are about to face arguably a more formidable pass rushing defense during their wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali is an aggressive, fast pass rusher who recorded 14½ sacks this season. The Chiefs also have defensive end Wallace Gilberry, who recorded a career-high seven sacks.
As a defense, they have 38 sacks.
The Ravens allowed 40 sacks during the regular season.
"There’s blocking schemes that can be executed better," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Against the Bengals, the Ravens had trouble with rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap’s athleticism as he posted 1½ sacks.
"I don’t know if we weren’t giving Joe enough time or if they were covering down on the end, but it just didn’t look like we could get the passing game going," offensive tackle Marshal Yanda said.
Afterward, Dunlap spent some time gloating about his success against Baltimore. According to Yanda, Dunlap talked a lot of trash during the game.
"Big-time players are supposed to make big-time plays," Dunlap said. "You have to have that type of confidence. At first, I was getting one-on-one blocks. So, I know I’m a pass rusher, and you aren’t supposed to be able to stop me. So, I have to bring my best move. I have an obligation as an NFL athlete to do that."
Yanda struggled with penalties against Cincinnati, drawing a false start and a holding penalty that was declined.
"I need to play better," Yanda said. "That’s ridiculous. I point the finger at myself right now. We can’t have that. That’s not me. I’m [upset]. I’m happy we won, but we all want to do better as an offense.
"We want to help the defense out. They’re playing awesome. I think we need to step it up, and that starts with me and that starts with us."
In general, the Ravens have had trouble with the Bengals’ defense.
Coached by Mike Zimmer, the Bengals feature an aggressive Cover 2 scheme and good cornerbacks in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall.
The Ravens scored 23 points in two games against Cincinnati this season.
"They play hard, they’ve got good players and they play tough football," said offensive tackle Michael Oher, who sprained his right knee in the second half and didn’t return. "It’s AFC North football."
Oher is expected to play Sunday against the Chiefs after aggravating his knee for the second time this season.
Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk said it’s time to hit a higher gear for the postseason.
"The season is in the past," Birk said. "It’s a long season, it’s a grueling season, but now you have to find a way mentally and physically to perk up and bring everything.
"You have to turn it up a notch because it’s playoff football. It’s different than the regular season. Whoever you play is going to be a more than a formidable opponent."