The Baltimore Ravens needed virtually every yard of the field this afternoon as the Cincinnati Bengals got within seven yards of tying the game in the final seconds before running out of chances. The Ravens held on for a 31-24 victory, which puts them in control of the AFC North and their playoff destiny.
Leading 31-14 in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati stormed back with a long touchdown pass and a field goal to come within seven points. If only Baltimore's offense could have held onto the ball for the final five minutes as the Seattle Seahawks did to them last week in a similar situation to run out the clock. Unfortunately, they couldn't convert a third-and-one which would have effectively ended the game and were forced to give the Bengals one final shot with just over two minutes remaining.
Inexplicably, Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton calmly drove them the length of the field, completing a 43-yard pass to bring his team within seven yards of tying the game. After an intentional grounding penalty pushed them back to the 17-yard line, Dalton was unable to find an open receiver and the ball was turned back over to the Ravens for QB Joe Flacco to take a knee to run off the final seconds and preserve the win.
Not only do the Ravens lead the AFC North with a 7-3 record, but their perfect 3-0 record in the division puts them two games ahead of both the Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the event of a tie-breaker. While a win is a win, the Ravens will not get any time to celebrate as they must get ready for a Thanksgiving night game hosting the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers in just four days.
More to follow but for now we will take the victory, which keeps Baltimore a perfect 5-0 at home in 2011, with the hope that streak continues on Thursday night.