Harbaugh: Lots of positives in Ravens loss
Bengals 23, Ravens 17
at Paul Brown Stadium
True to coach John Harbaugh’s words, the Ravens played to win Sunday’s regular-season finale.
They just tried it without most of their starters on both sides of the ball as a late interception doomed their chances of finishing the season on a winning streak.
Tyrod Taylor's pass was picked off and returned 14 yards for a TD by DE Carlos Dunlap. The loss locks the Ravens (10-6) into the No. 4 seed in the AFC and a home wild-card game Jan. 5 or 6 vs. the No. 5 seed Indianapolis Colts, who are coached by former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. He recently returned to the sideline after treatments for leukemia.
After the second series, QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice and company were pulled. Taylor took over and led a 7-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Taylor scrambled for a 28-yard gain and third-string RB Anthony Allen followed up with a 20-yard run before scoring the first TD of his career from 2 yards out.
The Ravens fell behind 13-7, but a go-ahead score was punched in to start the fourth when Taylor pivoted to get around Vontaze Burfict and reached the end zone from 1 yard for a 14-13 advantage on was an 11-play, 81-yard drive.
The Bengals (10-6) stuck with their starters through the first half. QB Andy Dalton found Marvin Jones from 11 yards to tie the score at 7 going into halftime. The Ravens clinched the AFC North last week. The Bengals will enter the postseason as a wild-card as a No. 6 seed.
Dalton, who finished 10-for-15 for 78 yards and a TD, was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.
Player of the game: Rookie RB Bernard Pierce managed 89 yards on a season-high 22 carries.
Turning point: With a chance to give the Ravens a 4-point lead in the fourth quarter, K Justin Tucker misfired from 45 yards. The Bengals responded by regaining the 16-14 lead on the next possession on a 38-yard FG from Josh Brown and never would trail again.
Safety first: Pro Bowl FB Vonta Leach was hurt on the second play of the game and didn’t return. Leach has had a sore ankle for several weeks and sat out most of practice going into Sunday’s game. He walked off the field under his own power.
Almost: DT Bryan Hall made a nice move to get inside Bengals LG Clint Boling and dropping Dalton for a 4-yard loss and forcing a fumble that was recovered by LB Paul Kruger. Hall only has been active for four games this season. But after review, the play was overturned because Dalton’s arm was ruled to be going forward and it therefore was an incomplete pass.
In defense: This defense is slowly moving up the ladder after being near the bottom most of the season. The Ravens came into Sunday’s game at No. 20, allowing 361.7 yards per game and 21.4 points (12th). That ranking should rise. Even with the Bengals sticking with Dalton and their starters in the first half, including WR A.J. Green, the Ravens’ unit of mostly backups held firm. The Bengals only gained 105 yards of total offense, 5 first downs and were 2-for-7 on third downs. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (hamstring) was a late scratch when he was injured during pregame warm-ups.
Personal problems: Rice knocked his team out of FG range on the first drive when he drew a 15-yard penalty for a foul after the play. Flacco threw incomplete on 3rd and 14 from inside the Bengals’ 32 but Rice hit Burfict after the play to draw the personal foul. Former Bengals G Bobbie Williams, filling in for Marshal Yanda in the starting lineup, appeared to jam his knee into a fallen player and was flagged for it. In the third quarter, NT Terrence Cody was called for roughing the passer to advance the ball into Ravens territory and set up a 47-yard FG from Brown that gave Cincinnati a 10-7 lead. The personal foul calls come after the Ravens were flagged for them three times in last week’s 33-14 win vs. the New York Giants. They were the only team to lose 1,000 yards in penalties for the season going into Sunday and now have an NFL-high 35 personal foul calls.
Record-setting: With a sack of Flacco and Taylor, the Bengals achieved a franchise-record with 49 sacks for the season, eclipsing a mark established by the 2001 team. DE Michael Johnson -- not DT Geno Atkins who has a team-high 12.5 -- had both and finished the season with 11.5. Dunlap had a third-quarter sack and DE Wallace Gilberrry added one in the fourth to push their season ending total to 51.