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Ravens Backups Stand Tall in Win Over Bengals

S Geno Stone
S Geno Stone

Don't tell the Ravens they were short-handed for Sunday's game in Cincinnati. Sure, they were missing five starters, but Baltimore didn't view itself as being at a disadvantage against the rival Bengals.

Without left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Tyler Linderbaum, safety Marcus Williams, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and running back J.K. Dobbins, the Ravens' backups rose to the occasion in Baltimore's 27-24 victory at Paycor Stadium.

"It says a lot about the guys that played," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It says that those guys are starting-caliber players that played winning football against a great football team in their house. That's what it says. They deserve it."

Safety Geno Stone got a game ball in the postgame locker room after picking off Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow at the goal line in the third quarter. It's was a headsy play by Stone, as he strayed from his over-the-top coverage on star Ja'Marr Chase to undercut a throw down the middle intended for Tee Higgins.

It's not Stone's first time being pressed into starting duty. He stepped in for seven starts last season when Williams suffered a fractured wrist. While he made 38 tackles, Stone didn't get any interceptions and was credited with just one pass breakup. He vowed to make more plays this time around. Stone was due, not just from last year, but from this week too.

"It was a slow week for me. Just with the type of week I was having, I feel like I just needed to do something," Stone said.

"It means a lot that these coaches trust me and put me in the position to be where I am right now. I've got a lot of trust in my guys, and my guys have got a lot of trust in me. So, I'm just happy I was out there and able to make the plays I could for this team and help them win."

The position group that was most hampered was the offensive line, as Stanley and Linderbaum are not only two of the team's best players, but at critical positions. Patrick Mekari stepped in at left tackle and Sam Mustipher, the Owings Mills native who joined the team this offseason, took over at center.

The Ravens didn't allow a single sack on Jackson, averaged 4.8 rushing yards per carry, and closed out the game on the ground behind power runs.

"They played great. That's a testament to what we believe in our offensive line," right tackle Morgan Moses said. "We always talk about five equals one. We always talk about cohesiveness and brotherhood and that's what you saw out there."

The long-term injury the Ravens suffered was to Dobbins, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles. Gus Edwards is no stranger to a leading role, and he rumbled for 62 yards on 10 carries, including a goal-line touchdown push and the run up the middle that sealed the win. Justice Hill got the start and had 41 rushing yards on 11 carries and caught three passes.

"You want the ball in your hands," Edwards said. "You want to make plays and contribute to the team. I'm grateful for the opportunity, and I just have to keep making the best of it."

With Humphrey out, the Ravens have leaned on Brandon Stephens, Ronald Darby and Rock Ya-Sin at cornerback. Stephens and Ya-Sin each made plays to deny Bengals touchdowns, including Ya-Sin breaking up a pass in Chase's hands.

During the week, Harbaugh said he doesn't use the phrase "next man up." With how many injuries the Ravens have had in recent years, it doesn't need to be said. Instead, he said players are excited to see their teammates get more opportunities to play. On Sunday, they saw them shine.

"I didn't see us being shorthanded," linebacker Roquan Smith said. "I have faith in every guy that steps out onto the field with us."

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