Ravens Beat Bengals 31-24 To Take Over 1st Place
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Playing without middle linebacker Ray Lewis for the first time in 58 games, the Baltimore Ravens turned to their offense in an important AFC North showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith did their part, and with help from a favorable replay call, the Ravens squeezed out a 31-24 victory Sunday.
Flacco threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns, Smith had six catches for 165 yards, and Baltimore (7-3) moved into first place in the AFC North with a nerve-racking victory.
Lewis watched from the sideline after being placed on the inactive list with a toe injury. The Ravens' spiritual leader and leading tackler watched his unit turn in a game-saving goal-line stand in the final minute.
Down 31-24, Cincinnati reached the Baltimore 7 before Terrell Suggs collared rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who was called for intentional grounding. On fourth down, Dalton was sacked by Pernell McPhee.
The Bengals (6-4) needed seven points because on the previous series, an apparent 9-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Jermaine Gresham was overturned by a replay that determined the receiver didn't hold onto the ball at the end of a juggling catch. The Bengals settled for a field goal with 5:32 remaining.
Baltimore is locked in a first-place tie with Pittsburgh in the AFC North, but the Ravens own the tiebreaker by virtue of their two wins over the Steelers.
Dalton went 24 for 45 for 373 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted three times. Cincinnati was without standout rookie wide receiver A.J. Green, who hurt his right knee a week earlier in a loss to Pittsburgh.
Baltimore took a 24-14 lead on a 2-yard run by Ray Rice late in the third quarter. The score came after Ravens rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith picked off a pass and returned it 16 yards before fumbling. The loose ball was recovered at the Bengals 2 by teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo in a pile that included referee Ron Winter.
Cincinnati's next possession ended with an interception by Lardarius Webb. On the next play, Torrey Smith split the Bengals' two-deep zone and caught a 38-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to make it 31-14 early in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals responded with a five-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 49-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Andre Caldwell, who slipped behind Jimmy Smith down the right sideline.
But the Ravens held on. Rice finished with 104 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Flacco completed 17 of 27 passes.
The Bengals punted six times in the first half, two short of their season high for an entire game. Cincinnati's offense managed only 143 yards before halftime, 47 of those on one play.
On the Bengals' second possession, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins made a juggling catch for a 47-yard gain to set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Cedric Benson.
The Ravens didn't get past midfield until early in the second quarter, following a 15-yard punt by Kevin Huber. Starting at its 45, Baltimore picked up a first down before Flacco tossed a short pass to Anquan Boldin, who ran the final 20 yards for a 35-yard touchdown.
Late in the half, Torrey Smith was pulled down by his long dreadlocks at the end of a 28-yard gain. Two plays later, Flacco threw an interception.
On Thanksgiving Day, it will be Harbaugh against Harbaugh as the Ravens take on the 49ers.
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