It’s pretty simple: turnovers aren’t a recipe for success.
Today’s chef was Andy Dalton. Despite 373 yards through the air, including a final drive that put the Bengals in position for the tying score, it couldn’t mask three interceptions from the rookie, turnovers which translated into 14 points for the Ravens and a 31-24 loss for Cincinnati.
Rather than take a 7-3 record and a tie for first place in the AFC North back to Cincinnati, the Bengals now sit at 6-4 looking up at both the Ravens and Steelers.
Let’s start with the positives. Even with the three miscues, Dalton looked very impressive for a guy in only his ninth start. Facing a hostile defense in a hostile environment, Dalton was rarely rattled. His 373 yards was a career high, despite the absence of top receiver A.J. Green. He threw back-to-back interceptions in the third quarter, both of which led to Ravens touchdowns, but marched his offense down the field for a touchdown on the very next drive.
Then, trailing by a touchdown with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Dalton kept his composure, leading the offense on a drive that started deep in Bengals territory down to the Ravens 7-yard line. It was then his inexperience found its way onto the field, as the Bengals turned the ball over on downs, sealing the win for Baltimore.
The running game was solid, totalling 119 yards. Cedric Benson, who has had success in the past against the Ravens, scored two touchdowns along with 41 yards. He was one of three Cincinnati running backs to have more than 30 yards on the day.
It was on defense where the Bengals fell short. Even with two offensive turnovers that left unfortunate field position for the Cincinnati defense, the unit allowed Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to pass for 270 yards and a pair of scores as well as more than 100 yards to running back Ray Rice, who also had a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Torrey Smith did the most damage against the Bengals secondary, notching 165 yards on six catches, including a 49-yard touchdown reception.
To their credit, the Bengals were never out of reach, even with the turnovers scattered throughout the game. But though the interceptions didn’t put the game out of reach, it prevented the Bengals from ultimately coming out with a signature road victory. Now, the path to the postseason gets a little bit tougher.