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Defense has issues against Bengals for second time this season

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In an otherwise return-to-form season, the Bengals' offense has had Baltimore's number.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

In Weeks 2 through 7, the Ravens' defense has been exceptional, averaging just 13.5 points and keeping teams from putting up a lot of yards. The Ravens only lost one game in that span, a 20-13 decision to Indianapolis, with the defense forcing four turnovers but not receiving much from the offensive side of the ball.

Perhaps, being able to play NFC South teams Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta during that span helps. But the Ravens did hold Pittsburgh to just six points, and everyone saw what the Steelers did Sunday to the Colts.

With the success and re-emergence the Ravens have had this year on defense, why have the Bengals, a team Indianapolis shut out a week ago, been able to have the most success against Baltimore? In two games against Cincinnati, the Ravens have surrendered 23 and 27 points, the two highest totals allowed this season.

For the season, the Ravens have allowed an average of 256 passing yards and 90.4 rushing yards per game. In two games against Cincinnati, quarterback Andy Dalton averaged 283.5 passing yards with the rushing offense going for an average of 95 yards.

It should be noted that the Ravens forced two fourth-quarter turnovers that appeared to put them on track for a win on Sunday. And in Week 1, Lardarius Webb was out, with Jimmy Smith missing most of Sunday's game due to an early foot injury that he was unable to return from. In addition, Joe Flacco contributed two interceptions that set the Bengals up in favorable field position.

But with A.J. Green missing this second meeting, the Ravens figured to have a great chance at limiting plays in the passing game. Instead, they had no answer for receiver Mohamed Sanu, who had five catches for 125 yards.

The bad news from this is that Baltimore's hold at the top of the division standings was short-lived for the time being. The good news is that the Ravens don't have to play Cincinnati the rest of the regular season.

The Ravens are still in a fine position, with Pittsburgh next and a very winnable game against the Titans the following week. But with the Bengals re-taking the division lead, and the Steelers — and Browns for that matter — still very much in the mix, this week's game all of a sudden has a ton of importance, and not just due to rivalry reasons. A loss, and a Browns win over the Buccaneers, would suddenly drop the Ravens to fourth place in the division.

The defense has been able to rise to the occasion against everyone else except Cincinnati. The Ravens will need to group to get back to that kind of play next Sunday against what appears to be a resurgent Steelers squad.