The Baltimore Ravens needed a last-second field goal to dispatch the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5, but it was a crucial victory nonetheless. In their 19-17 win, the Ravens did a number of good things, especially on the defensive side of the ball. However, it was far from a flawless performance.
Let’s break it down.
Two minute offense
Receiving the ball with one minute and 58 seconds remaining and all three timeouts, the stage was set for a game-winning drive from the Ravens offense. They perfectly manufactured 50 yards in seven plays and worked the clock to their favor. A eight-yard catch by Mark Andrews and a 20-yard rush upfield from Lamar Jackson were key.
Then, Jackson’s first down run up the middle for three yards on third down extended the drive. That allowed the Ravens to kick a field goal as time expired rather than give the Bengals the ball back with any time remaining. They were on the opposite side of the spectrum in last week’s loss to the Bills.
For the second straight week, the Ravens gained 13 first downs running the ball. They again averaged over 5.0 yards per carry and were able to manufacture consistent yardage via rushing.
J.K. Dobbins gained 44 yards on eight carries and converted four first downs before ceding snaps late to Kenyan Drake. Drake had a 13-yard rush and a key first down run in the fourth quarter. The Ravens also manufactured a couple rushes for Devin Duvernay, who had 24 yards on the ground. Jackson, despite his lowest rushing output since Week 1, churned out a number of drive-extending runs in the second half.
Limiting big plays
Against an explosive offense, the Ravens’ defense limited explosive plays. Even without wide receiver Tee Higgins, the Bengals have a high-end receiving core and capable passing attack. Mike Macdonald’s unit forced Joe Burrow into a high number of check down, dump-off throws and quick screen passes.
Cincinnati did put together back-to-back drives 13+ plays and 70+ yards late in the game, but most of their first downs came via running the ball and intermediate catches. Little to no damage was inflicted after the catch, an area were the likes of Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd are dangerous.
Field goal success rate
The Ravens would always prefer to score touchdowns over field goals, but sometimes you have to rely on the leg of Justin Tucker for a victory. That’s usually a good thing given Tucker is the greatest player at his position. He was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goal tries in this game, highlighted by a 58-yard make in the third quarter and the 43-yard kick to seal the win as time expired.
If Tucker accounts for over 50% of the team’s scoring output in every game, the Ravens probably won’t win a ton of them. However, with the defense limiting the Bengals to only three total scores on nine drives, Tucker’s contributions were paramount. Points are points and the Ravens needed all they could get in this high-stakes, chess match-esque matchup.
On the Bengals’ 15-play drive in the third quarter, the Ravens were about to get off the field five plays in. The Bengals did not convert on third-and-short but were gifted 18 yards after Marcus Peters was flagged for defensive pass interference. Several plays later, Kyle Hamilton was penalized for the same thing in coverage against Hayden Hurst. That penalty, also on third down, gave the Bengals a first down at the two yard line.
The Ravens’ defense held up and forced a turnover on downs, but they shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. Then, on Cincinnati’s long touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, a holding call away from the ball on Damarion “Pepe” Williams gave the Bengals another free first down.
Jackson doesn’t have a tendency to overthrow pass-catchers usually but tonight was a rare exception. Jackson had three passes sail badly off-target. The first, intended for Demarcus Robinson, was intercepted. Then, on the Ravens’ opening drive of the third quarter, Jackson misfired twice just two plays apart.
He overthrew Devin Duvernay on a deep pass attempt up the middle of the field, which would have been caught in the end zone for a touchdown. Then, on fourth-and-short, Jackson overthrew a wide-open Tylan Wallace on the sideline — who would have walked in untouched for a score. If either of these passes are completed, the Ravens probably win this game much more handedly.
Jackson’s interception was a pivotal turning point in this game. The Ravens were leading 10-0 at the time and had forced four straight punts and three consecutive three-and-outs. They had an opportunity to go up three scores in the second quarter, which would have been huge considering they received the ball first in the second half.
They were already nearing scoring territory when Jackson was picked off, too. When the defense went back on the field, the Bengals immediately drove 83 yards in seven plays and Hurst found the end zone. Even though they ultimately finished in the end this time around, not being able to capitalize on an early advantage was again an issue.