The Ravens heard all week about their recent struggles against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Baltimore had lost five-straight to their division rival coming into Sunday's matchup at M&T Bank Stadium. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs compared the losing streak to getting beaten up by the same kid each day at school.
The Ravens won that fight Sunday, beating the Bengals 19-14 to stay atop the AFC North standings.
"When you're fighting a kid in the school-yard, and he's always beating you, and you finally punch him in the mouth, maybe he'll quit picking on you," Suggs said. "We finally got over the little Bengal hump."
The Ravens leaned on their defense and a remarkable day from kicker Justin Tucker to come up with the victory. Baltimore led for nearly the entire game, and then held off a late comeback attempt from the Bengals to seal the win.
"That's always a tough rivalry, and it's really good to finally break the string against these guys," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They've gotten us five times in a row. For us to come up with this victory is obviously very satisfying."
Several Ravens didn't even know what it was like to beat Cincinnati before Sunday. Only 14 players on Baltimore's 53-man squad had ever beaten the Bengals while with the Ravens.
"It felt great to get that monkey off the back," inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "I felt it was a great team effort. The offense did their job, moving the ball and with great time of possession. On defense, we bent a little bit but didn't break, and that's what it comes down to."
A benefit for the Ravens Sunday was that the Bengals played without All-Pro receiver A.J. Green, who has tormented Baltimore throughout his career. A hamstring injury kept him sidelined, and Cincinnati's offense didn't have as much firepower without him in the game.
"I wish he was out there," Suggs said. "I'd like for them to be full go with A.J. Green. But also, you've got to be careful what you wish for, so we'll take it, man. We'll take it."
Safety Eric Weddle is new to the Ravens-Bengals matchup, but he quickly became aware of the recent history between the two teams. The struggles against the Bengals were a talking point throughout the week of practice, and the team leaders stressed the importance of rebounding from last week's loss to Dallas with a strong performance against a division foe.
"That's what these games are all about – just grind it out," Weddle said. "Physical game and we made the plays in the fourth quarter to win, unlike last week. So, it was great to bounce back, see the energy, see the focus throughout the week. It showed some character and some mental toughness to bounce back from last week."
The win over Cincinnati moves the Ravens to 6-5 on the season, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the best record in the division. The Ravens currently hold the tiebreaker over the Steelers because they beat Pittsburgh earlier in the year.
The Ravens don't have any breathing room atop the division, and they know they can't afford to lose any ground with Pittsburgh on their heels.
"Huge win," Weddle said. "I mean, these games have been huge for the last few weeks, so we had to get it. We've got to win every game, we feel, this last stretch."