Although the Cincinnati Bengals rolled up almost 500 yards of total offense on the Baltimore Ravens defense, they just couldn't get those last few yards that would have sent the game into overtime and perhaps end with a Bengals victory instead of a Ravens 31-24 win. Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton led the NFL in week 11 with 373 passing yards, but it was his three interceptions plus his inability to find an open receiver on their last two offensive plays that made a huge difference in the game.
There were five big defensive plays in the game that directly contributed to the victory, all that either kept the Bengals off the board, or put the Ravens in position for their offense to put points on the scoreboard. Here they are in order of when they happened:
1. Safety Ed Reed's interception in the Ravens end zone at the end of the first half ends any hopes of the Bengals putting points on the board and the teams head into halftime with Baltimore holding a 14-7 lead.
2. Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith reads Andy Dalton perfectly, stepping in front of the receiver for his first career NFL reception. He tries to imitate Ed Reed by running back to t he middle of the field, holding the ball like a loaf of bread and having it knocked from his grasp by a Bengals player. Luckily, beneath a huge pile of players including referee Ron Winters, Ravens LB Brandon Ayanbadejo comes out of it holding the ball and Baltimore's Ray Rice scores on a short run on the very next play to put the Ravens ahead 24-14.
3. Cornerback Lardarius Webb makes as nice a diving interception as you will ever see, laying out like a season wide receiver to haul the pick in and having smart football sense, gets up and adds a few yards to the return. QB Joe Flacco's play-action fake freezes the Bengals defense just enough for him to find rookie WR Torrey Smith deep over the middle for a 38-yard TD pass and the Ravens second touchdown on two offensive plays less than 90 seconds apart. That play gives Baltimore what appeared to be a comfortable 31-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
4. The Bengals seemingly score their second straight TD when TE Jermaine Gresham bobbles but holds onto a short pass and steps into the end zone to hopefully bring Cincinnati within three points one series after WR Andre Caldwell burned Jimmy Smith for a 49-yard TD reception. After further review, it was deemed that Gresham put the ball on the ground to keep his balance after scoring, meaning that he failed to maintain control and the pass was ruled incomplete. While this "Calvin Johnson Rule" seems to be in dire need of a change, like it or not, it is interpreted correctly and the Bengals are forced to kick a FG to get with in seven points of the Ravens with around five minutes remaining in the game.
5. The Ravens try to run out the clock like the Seattle Seahawks did to them a week ago but cannot convert a third-and-one and are forced to punt the ball back to the Bengals, giving them the ball at their own 14-yard line with a little over two minutes remaining and trailing 31-14. Dalton calmly drives them downfield, looking more like a seasoned veteran than a wide-eyed rookie, highlighted by a long pass down to the Ravens seven yard line with under a minute to play. After an incompletion and an intentional grounding penalty sets them back to the 17-yard line, Dalton misfires on third down, setting up a fourth-and-goal for the ballgame. Ravens rookie pass-rush specialist Pernell McPhee pressures Dalton who throws the ball while being taken down by McPhee and the ball falls harmlessly to the ground and all Flacco has to do is take a knee to run out the game-clock for the win.