The Baltimore Ravens faced off with the Cincinnati Bengals for the second time in Week 11 and swept them for the first time since the 2020 season with 34-20 victory in primetime. In a contest that was expected to be a tightly contested AFC North clash, the home team built a double-digit lead and pulled away further in the second half.
The offense had a well-balanced attack in the end after airing the ball out more in the first half and keeping it on the ground more after halftime. Meanwhile, the defense rebounded nicely overall and protected the lead much better.
Some of the top takeaways from the Ravens triumph in Week 11:
Ravens didn’t take their foot off the gas
The theme of the team’s abbreviated week of preparation and pretty much all season has been finishing. In all three of their losses this year, they failed as a team to hold onto a late lead by calling a more conservative game on both sides of the ball after they got out ahead by multiple scores in an effort to milk the clock and run it down. However, against the Bengals, they were unrelenting on offense and defense on Thursday.
On offense, in particular, they stayed aggressive when it came to taking shots and pushing the ball down the field well into the fourth quarter while mixing in a healthy dose of the ground game. Defensively, after letting the Cleveland Browns go 8-of-16 on third down just days before in Week 10, they held the Bengals to 2-of-11 and made the plays they needed to get off the field.
Some detractors will throw salt on or attach an asterisk to the Ravens’ victory over the Bengals since two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow had to leave the game in the second quarter and did not return. However, a win is a win and there were no asterisks attached or excuses made when Burrow lit up a depleted Ravens secondary in 2021 to set a record or when they struggled the Bengals struggled to beat a Tyler Huntley-led Ravens team in the Wildcard round of the 2022 playoffs and needed them to literally fumble the game away to win. Alas, the Ravens likely won’t be given their flowers again unless they run the table the rest of the regular season and secure the one-seed assuming the Kansas City Chiefs don’t do the same.
“It means a lot,” inside linebacker Patrick Queen said. “They had a lot of stuff to [say]. We put that to bed. It’s still a long season. There’s still a chance we may have to play them again, you never know. We definitely just have to keep working, but it feels good.”
Running game got back on track
After being limited to a season-low 106 rushing yards in their Week 10 loss to the Browns, the Ravens continued to have struggles establishing the run in the first half of Thursday’s game against the Bengals and only had 30 yards on the ground at halftime. Apparently, they were just softening up Cincinnati’s defense for the bludgeoning that was coming in the second half where the Ravens would record 127 of their 157 rushing yards in the final two quarters alone.
“They played good run defense and I thought they made some plays,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “[In the] second half, we opened up a little bit, so you have to keep pounding, keep smashing in there, and our guys are blocking hard, and it opened up for them.”
The Ravens had three different players rush for over 30 yards and were led by sixth-year veteran running back Gus ‘The Bus’ Edwards who had 62 rushing yards on 12 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry and recorded a pair of red zone touchdowns.
It marked his fifth straight game reaching the end zone at least once, the third time during that span scoring multiple times in the same game, and increased his season total to a career-high 10 which is five more than the next closest player on the team which is quarterback Lamar Jackson who has five.
“My mentality is, when my name is called upon, [I] just have to do my best, lower my pads and get in there,” Edwards said. “That’s what they want me here for, and that’s what I have to do.”
Explosive passing game remains a strength
While the Ravens rushing attack didn’t start picking up until after halftime, the offense generated numerous big plays through the air in both halves. Jackson connected with three different receivers on wide receivers record receptions or have catch-and-run plays of over 30 yards. Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. recorded his first 100-plus-yard receiving game since he played in the 2021 NFC championship as a member of the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
He recorded the longest reception of the game and of his season on a 51-yard catch and run that wound up being his last catch of the game. Fellow veteran Nelson Agholor made the most of his lone reception of the game by corralling a deflected pass and taking it 37 yards to the house.
Standout first-round rookie wideout Zay Flowers broke the Ravens’ rookie receptions record on his first catch of the game. He picked up 33 yards after making a couple of defenders miss in space and finished with 43 receiving yards on three catches.
His most impressive and biggest play of the game was negated by a ridiculous holding penalty on Beckham Jr. It occurred on the same drive that Nelson found the end zone and should’ve resulted in a 68-yard score for Flowers’ second of his career but was electrifying all the same.
Safety play was elite
Against the Browns in Week 10, the Ravens had some miscommunication in the secondary that led to several blown coverages resulting in vacated zones over the middle of the field that Cleveland capitalized on for key conversions. Starting safeties Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton were determined to not let the Bengals do the same and made sure they didn’t by making clutch pass breakups on several high-leverage third downs making Cincinnati settle for field goals and force punts on fourth down.
Williams jumped in front of a third-down pass from Burrow intended for slot receiver Tyler Boyd on third-and-six from the Baltimore 31-yard line to make the Bengals settle for a 50-yard field goal on their first possession of the game, snapping their streak of scoring an opening series touchdown. The seventh-year veteran finished with the third-most total tackles on the team with seven and broke up another pass.
Hamilton made a couple of impressive pass breakups including one while in man coverage on two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to force a third and long in the first quarter that led to a sack on the next play. His second came early in the fourth quarter where he showed pressure pre-snap before dropping to cover the middle of the field where he broke a pass intended for Boyd on third-and-eight to force a punt. The second-year pro finished with three total tackles including a solo to go along with his awesome plays in coverage.
watch Kyle Hamilton before and after the snap pic.twitter.com/D1OsqATIak— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 17, 2023
Pass rush continues to produce at a high level
The Ravens’ defense remains the most productive pass-rushing unit in the league and increased their NFL-leading sack total to 44 after notching five more on Thursday night. Two of their quarterback takedowns came while Burrow was still in the game in the first half and two of them came against former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. including the first in the career of fourth-round rookie outside linebacker Tavius Robinson.
Veteran outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy each recorded a sack and no they both have six or more on the season now. Fourth-year defensive tackle Justin Madubuike continued to shine during his breakout season by extending his franchise record consecutive games with at least half a sack to eight in a row and increasing his career-high total to 9.5 to lead all interior defensive linemen. Third-year outside linebacker recorded his fourth sack of the season in the last five games against Brown Jr. who the Ravens traded to acquire the pick they used to select him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Homefield advantage was alive and well
In the Ravens’ final bout of a three-game homestand in the team’s first primetime game of the season, the Ravens Flock truly was the 12th man on defense several times and had an actual impact on the game. They showed the value of what having home-field advantage in the postseason would look like on Thursday night when they were so loud, ruckus, and rowdy that the Bengals had to burn two timeouts and committed five pre-snap penalties on offense because it was so hard to hear.
When we say home-field advantage, this is what we mean Ravens Flock pic.twitter.com/6MWTyxAQl7— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 17, 2023
“Our crowd’s amazing at night. Our stadium people do a great job,” Harbaugh said. “There’s just a tradition here. These night games are special. We’d like to get a few more of them. I would just say it was an electric atmosphere out there.”
In an appearance on the Manningcast during Monday Night Football in Week 10, Chiefs’ two-time Super Bowl and league MVP, Patrick Mahomes, shared that the only two times that he has had to use silent counts due to crowd noise twice in his career. One was in Seattle while playing the Seahawks and the other was in Baltimore during the 2021 season when they lost the Ravens 36-35 in Week 2 on Sunday Night Football.
“That’s ‘The Bank.’ [It’s] always loud, always have your opinion on stuff like that, so we appreciate them,” outside linebacker Odafe Oweh said. “We appreciate them stopping Joe [Burrow]’s rhythm. It’s always good to have that, and they always have our back. Whenever a big play happens, you can just feel the energy. After my sack, I just felt the energy, [and it] made me want to play stronger, play faster [and] play even better. So, I really appreciate ‘The Bank.’”