If this was Marvin Lewis’ swan song as Bengals head coach, it was one that poetically encapsulated his 8 years in the Queen City as the team was competitive, even dominant in stretches, but in the end simply could not get the job done. They had three chances to win the game in the last 5 minutes and failed on all three.
The Bengals started the game on offense, but went three-and-out as Carson Palmer’s deep pass to Andre Caldwell was tipped by Chris Carr and intercepted by Safety Ed Reed, setting up the Ravens at their own 45 yard line.
The Ravens got a big play from a flea-flicker screen pass from Joe Flacco to Todd Heap got 37 yards to the Bengal 10-yard line, but they stalled there. They settled for Billy Cundiff’s short 25-yard field goal and a 3-0 Ravens lead.
After the teams exchanged punts, the Bengals finally put together a good drive, converting several third downs with big plays from Jerome Simpson, Caldwell, Cedric Peerman, and Chase Coffman to get into the red zone. Palmer was sharp with his passes. The drive stalled on a 3rd-and-7 from the 11-yard line. Clint Stitser’s 29 yard was wide, keeping the score 3-0.
After the next Raven drive stalled thanks to a 15-yard personal foul on OT Michael Oher, the Bengals got the ball back and immediately went to the air. Palmer’s beautiful strike to Jerome Simpson for 21 yards was negated when the young receiver fumbled (ball punched out from behind) and the Ravens got the ball back at their own 37.
Joe Flacco threw to Dante Stallworth, who appeared to fumble at the Bengal 48-yard line. The refs originally called Stallworth down by contact, but Bengals coach Marvin Lewis challenged the call and it was overturned, setting up the Bengals at their own 36. The Bengals were unable to convert their second 3rd-and-one of the game and had to punt.
The next Raven possession was aided by a 24-yard pass interference call on Brandon Johnson, but a couple of nice plays by the Bengals defense forced another Ravens field goal attempt. Cundiff’s 47-yard kick was good, extending Baltimore’s lead to 6-0.
The Bengals couldn’t do anything with their next possession, and Kevin Huber’s 20-yard punt set the Ravens up at their own 28-yard line with 2:27 left in the first half. The Ravens quickly moved into the Bengals side of the field, but Reggie Nelson got his second interception of the season to end the threat. Nelson’s 56-yard return set up the Bengals at the Raven 37-yard line with 40 seconds left and all 3 time-outs remaining.
The Bengals got all the way to Baltimore’s 13-yard line, but the Bengals self-destructed again, with Palmer throwing his second interception of the half. The ball thrown into the end zone bounced off of Jordan Shipley’s hands, who was being converged upon by three Ravens. After Reed’s return, the Ravens would kneel to end the half.
The Bengals headed to the locker room with an advantage in total yards and 3rd down conversions, but 3 turnovers proved costly, along with Stitser’s missed field goal.
The second half started with the Ravens in good field position thanks to Stitser’s kick-off going out of bounds at the 40-yard line.
A Michael Johnson sack of Flacco caused Baltimore to punt, giving the Bengals the ball back at their own 12.
A three-and-out for the office punted it back to the Ravens. A strange unsportsmanlike penalty on Bernard Scott gave Baltimore an additional 15 yards and set the Ravens up at their own 48.
But the Ravens had to punt again thanks to some penalties on their offense and a big-time 3rd-down sack by Carlos Dunlap, his 8th in six games.
The Bengals next possession ended with their fourth turnover of the game as Jerome Simpson caught a pass and lost the handle, setting up the Ravens in Bengal territory at the 27. This time the Ravens capitalized, as RB Ray Rice was able to dart in from seven yards out. The 13-0 lead belied the fact that the Bengals had been competitive all game.
The Bengals moved well on their next drive, but Benson was again stopped, for the third time on a third-and-one at the Ravens 40. This time they went for it, and Kelly Gregg’s jump offsides gained a first down. The third quarter ended with the Bengals at the Raven 24-yard line with a first and 10 down 13-0.
The Bengals would continue to drive, and with 12:24 left, Palmer hit Simpson from 11-yards out for a touchdown, cutting the Raven advantage to 13-7. Simpson partially redeemed himself for his two killing fumbles, got his 3rd touchdown of the year, and continued to show himself to be a real playmaker for Palmer. Had the Bengals converted their previous two red zone possessions into at least field goals, the score would have been tied.
Cincinnati’s defense responded, causing a three-and-out on Baltimore’s next drive. Sam Koch’s punt set up the Bengals at their own twenty yard line.
The offense moved the ball but were faced with yet another 3rd-and-one from the Baltimore 49 yard line. Faced with the failures of three previous 3rd-and-one plays, the Bengals were on the ropes, but this time Benson was able to pick up the first down as Benson got two.
The drive eventually stalled with the team facing a fourth-and-one from the Raven 25-yard line. Cedric Peerman’s run was short and the Ravens turned the Bengals back again. The Ravens got the ball back with 5 ½ minutes left clinging to a 6 point lead. Should the Bengals have attempted a field goal there?
The Ravens took over, but sputtered, and faced a 3rd-and-14 from their own 22, and Geno Atkins brought down Flacco for a one-yard gain forcing another Baltimore punt with four minutes left. The punt was partially blocked and the 28-yard kick set up the Bengals with good field position at their own 47.
By the time the 2:00 warning was sounded, Cincinnati had a third-and-two at the Baltimore 32 yard line in 2-down territory. The decision not to attempt a field goal on the previous drive seemed potentially dubious, as a field goal there and on this drive could have meant a tie, but it seemed clear the Bengals were going for broke in their last game.
Carson Palmer scrambled and appeared to have enough room to get a first down, but Palmer inexplicably lost the ball and Ray Lewis recovered to give the Ravens the ball back. The fumble was the fifth turnover of the game for the Bengals, and appeared to kill their hopes for the win.
But the Bengals didn’t quit, and after 3 Raven runs and use of their final time-outs, they forced another punt, getting the ball back with less than a minute to go. The task seemed insurmountable, with the ball at their 31-yard line with 45 seconds left.
But Palmer hit Caldwell for 30-yards to the Raven 30 yard line, catching the Ravens in man-to-man coverage. On the next play, Palmer hit Simpson down to the Raven 10 with 33 seconds left.
Suddenly the Ravens were scared, and the Bengals looked to end the year with a fourth quarter come-back win. A first down completion to Caldwell set up a second and one at the two. The Bengals spiked it to reserve the last 19 seconds of the game.
Palmer’s third down pass in the back of the end zone to Simpson was too long, setting up fourth-and-one from the 2.
On the ultimate play, as happened all year, the Bengals simply could not convert. Palmer scrambled out of the pocket, and as Raven defenders closed on him, he threw out to the flat for Cedric Peerman at the one, but his pass attempt sailed over Peerman’s head and out of bounds, and the Bengals were turned back once again.