Well, a win is a win is how the saying goes, but the Ravens’ astounding 20-17 OT win over Cincinnati, a game featuring a last-second, tying touchdown, a blown 17-point halftime lead, and a huge overtime field goal from Justin Tucker, was not just “a win.”
This win was epic, a near heartbreak for the Ravens while many fans headed to the exits after Elvis Dumervil’s third sack of the game (2.5 total for the game) left the Bengals scrambling for one last Hail Mary throw with two seconds left in regulation.
Ravens fans had to have a lot of empathy for how Broncos fans must have felt in the playoffs last year as Dalton somehow completed the tipped touchdown pass to his go-to receiver AJ Green on what should have been game over.
But despite the heartbreak play, the Ravens bore down, held on defense – something they have failed to do all season long – on a key fourth down swing pass with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis electing not to try a long field goal against the wind.
The Ravens then had good starting field position to march up the field and eventually give Justin Tucker a chance. And he delivered, in what has become a common occurrence with the game on the line.
The emotion was palpable – and it should be if you are the team that comes out with the win in this situation. The Ravens’ jubilation is clearly the converse of the feeling in the Bengals locker room, that this game could have been won after the dramatic comeback.
There were a lot of positives in the win, which the Ravens surely hope will carry over to the remainder of the season including the re-emergence of DT Haloti Ngata, who had a monster first half in which he seemed to shut down the Bengals run game at the point of attack.
Dumervil flat-out owned Bengals OL Andrew Whitworth. Dumervil seemed to be putting on a textbook show of how to rush the passer with outside charges, bull-rushes, and some of his patented dodge moves.
Dalton was constantly under pressure even when the Ravens weren’t sacking him. Along with the fickle wind that seemed to play around with passes thrown by both quarterbacks, Dalton was not his usual calm self in the pocket. He hurried throws, missing a number of wide open receivers, who in turn dropped several balls that should have been caught.
James Ihedigbo played well also. Ihedigbo had a number of bat-aways that broke up passes, but he also tackled well and supported the run defense on a number of plays, to go along with his two big interceptions.
With his first pick, Ihedigbo dropped back to play centerfield and looked remarkably like Ed Reed reincarnate in the Ravens’ secondary. His second came when the game appeared to be put away for the Ravens but for their inability to convert on third down, leaving the Bengals with well over a minute on the clock and the ball back.
Ray Rice had an overall bad game as once again the Ravens’ running attack looked feeble and pathetic. But give Rice some credit: on the final drive in overtime, he fought hard to get a huge first down when the Bengals rushed Flacco and they left Rice alone on a screen pass that went for 13 yards. Rice didn’t quit even when he was getting just a yard or two, he avoided getting dropped for a 4-yard loss and managed a short gain on the first play of the drive.
Sam Koch, who had been – like Rice – under a lot of pressure, played better. He pinned the Bengals several times deep in their own territory without over-kicking, something he’s been guilty of, and letting them start off on the 20.
Overall while the win doesn’t suddenly make the Ravens playoff contenders, it provides the type of emotional saving grace that can be huge moving forward.
It is also a win in a situation – late in the game – in which the Ravens have been losing.
That’s a plus development given the team’s slip ups in recent similar situations.
This time it didn’t get away.