Ryan Mallett's two-game trial as the Ravens' starting quarterback unfortunately ended with an interception. That shouldn't cloud what Mallett showed in his audition, however.
Mallett had a tougher second game than his first, when he beat the rival Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium, but he showed some of the same upside in Cincinnati, especially in a strong first half.
Facing a Bengals defense that has long given the Ravens fits, Mallett went 30-of-56 for 292 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
More importantly than his final stat line was that Mallett left with a good head start on next season.
Mallett will be a key figure this offseason, and likely the Ravens' No. 1 quarterback through much of the summer until injured starter Joe Flacco returns from knee surgery, which is expected to be at the start of training camp.
With Flacco's status still uncertain, Mallett is in a critical position, and he made a solid impression to cap the 2015 season.
"It'll help a ton," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We have a look, he has a feel, we understand him as a quarterback more. We've game-planned with him for two weeks and we kind of see how he thinks. Of course, you've all seen how he plays. It's an asset for us, for sure."
Mallett's first interception Sunday came on Baltimore's first drive of the second half, which led to a Bengals touchdown. It came on a fantastic diving play by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. It was the turning point after the Ravens went into halftime leading.
"I should have thrown it away," Mallett said. "It's part of the game, just throw it away next time."
His second pick came as Baltimore had to chuck the ball up in hopes of driving the length of the field to tie the game in the final minute.
Overall, Mallett's two games went well, especially considering the difficult position he was put in with changing systems and learning it all in a matter of 12 days.
"I got a good crash course," Mallett said. "Anytime you get thrown into the fire like that, you've got to learn quickly to be successful. I did everything I could to put myself in position to help this team win two football games at the end of the year."
Mallett showed good recognition of the Bengals defense and made quick decisions for a second-straight week. He was only sacked once. That decision-making and confidence, paired with a strong arm, make him a definite weapon.
At other times during Sunday's game, there were still miscommunications between Mallett and his band of targets. Once Mallett gets back on the field, especially with more targets around him that were missing due to injuries, he'll have a chance to improve on that. And he already has a good jumping-off point.
"As much work as I've put in, I feel really comfortable," Mallett said. "I'm looking forward to the spring, and going into the spring OTAs and helping get this team better and be a part of this team."