John Eisenberg: So much for the Ravens’ pledge to focus on winning their regular-season finale and/or building momentum for the playoffs. When they scratched a handful of key players before the game and pulled many starters in the first half, the game became a de facto exhibition contest, with getting healthier for the postseason obviously the priority. Tyrod Taylor didn’t exactly light it up in his first chance for extended playing time, but keep in mind that he didn’t have starting receivers to throw to. Bernard Pierce looked like he could be a starting running back somewhere. In the end, the Ravens were unable to pull off the exacta of winning while resting their starters. Now we can stop talking about it, because something far more interesting and meaningful is at hand … next week’s playoff game against the Colts.
Ryan Mink: This felt like an exhibition game. Some big names were inactive to start and some of the other starters, including Joe Flacco, were out after two drives. It was clearly a strategy to stay healthy first and win second. But have no doubt, they wanted to win this game. The backups played relatively well against the Bengals, who didn’t rest their starters until the second half, but they weren’t able to close it out down the stretch. The loss means the Ravens will keep the No. 4 seed and face the Indianapolis Colts, who are coming off an emotional win over the Texans. While taking a loss is never good, I don’t expect a defeat with your backups in for the vast majority will affect any momentum.
Garrett Downing: Sunday’s matchup had the look and feel of a preseason game, as the Ravens rested a number of their starters and didn’t even suit up some of their banged up stars. The Ravens ended up losing 23-17, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor got the most extensive playing time of his career. He was exciting to watch and made plays with his feet, but his fourth quarter interception turned out to be the difference in the game. While the Ravens came up short, the score was almost secondary. The Ravens’ priority was to come out of the game as healthy as possible to get ready for the playoffs. The extra week of rest should go a long way for players like Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Bernard Pollard, Anquan Boldin and Marshal Yanda, who are dealing with injuries. The focus immediately turns to the Indianapolis Colts, who are coming to Baltimore for the wild-card game next weekend.
Sarah Ellison: It felt like August in Cincinnati, and I’m not talking about the weather. The Ravens’ season finale had the feel of a fourth preseason game with six starters scratched before the game and resting six more after the second series. Baltimore’s priorities were clear with little to play for heading into the playoffs: don’t risk injury to key players, rest banged-up starters, evaluate younger backups and then win. Accomplishing three out of four isn’t bad. Other than undisclosed injuries to rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele and fullback Vonta Leach, it looks like the Ravens escaped without major injury. Coaches got an extended look at several backups, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who had a decent day spoiled by a pick six. The replacements couldn’t deliver a win, however, which means the Ravens will now host the Indianapolis Colts, who just knocked off the AFC’s top-seeded Houston Texans. Nothing can change that now. We’ll see if the “bye week” helped the Ravens as things start to get real interesting from here on out.