Game Recap: Bengals 23, Ravens 17


Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Ed Reed spent more time watching Sunday's game than actually playing.

Haloti Ngata, Anquan Boldin and Terrell Suggs didn't even suit up.

In a game that had the feel of a preseason contest, the Ravens fell to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-17. The loss makes the Ravens (10-6) the AFC's No. 4 seed, setting up a wild-card matchup with the Indianapolis Colts next week in Baltimore.

"The goal was two-fold: To put us in the best position possible going forward into the playoffs and to win the game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We obviously didn't win the game and we're disappointed in that. We feel like we're in the best position we could have been going forward into the playoffs."

Both teams had little on the line, as the Ravens had already clinched the AFC North and were guaranteed to be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed. The Bengals were locked in as the No. 6 seed. Even if the Ravens had won, they would have remained the No. 4 seed because the Houston Texans also lost Sunday.

The Ravens sat a number of their banged-up stars, and most of the starters who did suit up spent the bulk of the game watching from the sidelines. Flacco was pulled in favor of backup Tyrod Taylor after the first two series, and Rice, Reed and center Matt Birk also came out of the game after two series. Most of the other starters were done in the second quarter.

Suggs, Ngata, Boldin, Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard and Marshal Yanda have been nursing injuries and were inactive to get an extra week of rest before the playoffs.

A top priority for the Ravens was to come out of the game healthy, which they were able to do. Fullback Vonta Leach and right tackle Kelechi Osemele both left the game with injuries, but Harbaugh said that the injuries were not serious.

"It's an accomplishment to be in this position where we can afford to do that," Harbaugh said. "That's a plus. If we were playing for more, we would have played them."

While the Ravens rested their starters, the Bengals kept their first-team offense in for the first half before pulling quarterback Andy Dalton to open the third quarter. Cincinnati kept most of its first-string defense on the field throughout the game.

That defense created problems for the Ravens offense, which struggled at times and spent much of the game backed up in its own territory.

"Field position was a real sticking point," Harbaugh said. "I think that hurt us on offense a little bit. It's tough sledding when you're starting inside your own five-yard line."

The Ravens pounded the ball on the ground with running backs Bernard Pierce and Anthony Allen, and finished with 206 total rushing yards. Pierce had 22 carries for 89 yards and Allen had 10 carries for 41 yards and his first career touchdown.

Allen's score gave the Ravens an early lead before the Bengals scored 13 unanswered points to take a second-half lead.

The play that sealed the game came late in the fourth quarter with the Ravens trailing by two points.  Taylor had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, which was then picked off by defensive end Carlos Dunlap and returned for a touchdown, giving the Bengals a 23-14 lead that would prove to be the difference.

Sunday's game was the most extensive playing time for Taylor in his two-year career, and he finished the day 15-of-25 passing for 149 yards and an interception. He also showed his scrambling skills and had nine carries for 65 yards and a touchdown, the first of his career.

"I thought he did a great job as far as working the offense, his way, applying his talents and abilities to it," Harbaugh said.

"I think there was some stuff that I can work on, but there were also some good things that I was able to showcase there," Taylor added. "It's been a while since I've been hit, so it felt good to go out there and actually get game-time reps."

With the loss and the regular season now behind them, the focus for the Ravens quickly turns to the playoffs and the Colts.

Indianapolis, led by former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano, will come into Baltimore next week as one of the hottest teams in football. They have won five of their last six games, and wrapped up the regular season with a 28-16 victory over Houston to knock the Texans out of the No. 1 seed.

"We're looking forward to playing the Colts," Harbaugh said. "They're a very good team. Obviously they have a great young quarterback. They beat the Texans today who were the No. 1 seed going in there, so they're a very good football team."

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