The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Five Thoughts At Bengals


Five thoughts on the Ravens' 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium:

PI Call Could Have Gone Either Way
First, the call. Here's my two cents: It could have gone either way. The Ravens' Steve Smith Sr. did extend his arms to a degree and appear to push the Bengals' George Iloka, who was guarding him. Iloka, in my opinion, definitely flopped, taking a harder-than-needed fall in hopes of drawing a flag. The fact that he did draw a flag certainly decided the game, nullifying what would have been a game-winning pass from Joe Flacco to Smith in the final minute. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was furious and deftly threw the officials under the bus without criticizing them. "The players and coaches played one of the greatest football games you will ever see," Harbaugh said. I'm guessing the Ravens will complain to the league office, but nothing will come of that. Sometimes you get the call, sometimes you don't. Fans of the San Francisco 49ers will always believe the Ravens were lucky to get the call at the end of the Super Bowl. The Ravens weren't as lucky Sunday. Could the official have swallowed his whistle with the game on the line? Sure. But he didn't. The fates giveth and the fates taketh away. For what it's worth, Smith didn't complain.

Déjà VuFor the second time this season, the Ravens overcame a double-digit deficit to take the lead on the Bengals midway through the fourth quarter. And for the second time this season, the Bengals offense took the game back, outplaying the Ravens defense down the stretch. In the season opener, it was a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green that did the trick. This time, it was a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that put the Bengals over the top in the final minute. Tackling and coverage issues have cropped up intermittently all season in the Ravens secondary, and the Bengals made the most of that on the final drive. It didn't help the Ravens' cause that they were without their top cornerback, Jimmy Smith, who left the game with a sprained foot, leaving Dominique Franks and Lardarius Webb as the team's only two corners. The Ravens were trying to hold off the Bengals with a blend that was heavy on in-season pickups, rookies and backups. That's a tall order. Honestly, I'm surprised the Bengals didn't throw more and test the group as the game unfolded.

Flacco Owns Criticism On Turnovers
Flacco had one of his poorer games of 2014. He threw a pair of interceptions and was fortunate not to throw more. Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak looked positively stunned when he threw into coverage and was picked off early in the third quarter. The Ravens trailed by a point at the time and had moved the ball well in the first half, so there was reason to believe they might take the lead. Instead, they were soon down by 11 points. "We were going to be hard to beat today if we don't turn the ball over; if I don't turn the ball over," Flacco said, stepping up as usual when criticism was warranted. To his credit, he never blinked and immediately led the Ravens on a comeback. That's probably his best attribute, his emotional control. He just keeps playing, regardless of what happens, and good things tend to happen. Even after the Bengals took the lead in the final minute, Flacco appeared to win the game again with his long pass to Smith, only to see the play nullified.

Harbaugh As Defiant As Ever
Harbaugh was as defiant as I have seen after the frustrating defeat. "If this is who we are as a football team, I'm fine with that. I'll take it and we'll go a long way," he said. I can understand why he felt that way. The Ravens had a lot go against them Sunday. After coming into the game without starters Chris Canty and Owen Daniels, the Ravens lost Jimmy Smith to a sprained foot, Michael Campanaro to a hamstring injury and Torrey Smith to a possible concussion. At one point in the first half, three-fifths of the offensive line was on the sideline being treated for various ailments. (They all returned.) True, the Bengals played without A.J. Green and Rey Maualuga, key losses, and also suffered some injuries. But the Ravens were into their deep depth, and there was a moment in the third quarter when the game appeared lost, after Flacco threw his second interception and the Bengals were up by 11. The Ravens showed some serious character in rallying to take the lead. That's why Harbaugh was optimistic.

Short Takes
The players usually are the most worn-out people on the flight home from a road game, but the Ravens' training and medical staff put in a serious shift. Players dropped left and right … After failing to convert several fourth-and-short plays several weeks ago, Harbaugh said he would reevaluate his strategy of gambling in such situations. But he continues to be aggressive. The Ravens went for it on fourth down twice, batting .500. Then Harbaugh took a similar gamble by going for two after the team's first touchdown in the third quarter … Campanaro was a difference-maker in the first half with a couple of key receptions, and also replaced Jacoby Jones as the punt returner. But he left the game with a hamstring pull … There were a lot of empty seats in the upper deck for such an important divisional game … The Ravens benefitted from a pair of holding calls on Cincinnati offensive tackle Andre Smith that wiped out some nice gains. The Bengals gave Smith some help in the second half … Long snapper Kevin McDermott was perfect in his debut as Morgan Cox's replacement.

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