Wild ride ends with a big defensive stand

Whew. Everyone still breathing?

At one point there, it all was looking so promising. The Ravens were up 31-14 with 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and were poised to run away with a crucial divisional game against a feisty Bengals team.

Only, no one told the Bengals they were supposed to quietly fade away.

Led by a rookie quarterback who didn't play at all like a rookie for 58 of the 60 minutes today, Cincinnati clawed their way back in it with 10 unanswered fourth-quarter points, and had a shot to tie the game in the final minute.

With their backs up against their own goal line, however, the Ravens' defense shut the door, keeping Andy Dalton and the Bengals out of the end zone and escaping with a hard-fought one-score win.

"It was just a great football game," head coach John Harbaugh said. "I don't think anybody that saw that football game would leave that stadium feeling like it wasn't worth spending the day at M&T (Bank Stadium). Obviously, I think that at the end, we would have liked to have made it a little less exciting, if we could have. But, give credit to the Bengals."

Give credit you should, because the Bengals battled their you-know-whats off to get back into this football game.

In retrospect, Cincinnati could have easily been driving for the potential game-winning score there late in the ballgame, had they not gotten a touchdown taken away after an official review.

Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham was initially ruled to have secured a nine-yard touchdown with under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, and had the touchdown stood, the Ravens' lead would have been cut to three.

Instead, because the ball came out as Gresham went to the ground, the pass was ruled incomplete. The Bengals had to kick a field goal on the next play, and Baltimore's lead was seven.

"He broke the plane with the ball outside the end zone and then crossed the end zone with the ball and possession, so I would think it would be a touchdown," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "But obviously (referee) Ron (Winter) called what he called."

The ruling proved to be huge when Dalton led the Bengals on that final drive. Had the Gresham touchdown counted, Cincinnati would have just needed a field goal in the final minutes to tie the game and force overtime, and a touchdown would have put them on top.

"That was huge," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Because, as you can clearly see, after they got the deep ball, all they would have needed was three [points]. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't pretty. He didn't keep control of the ball all the way to the ground, and that turned out to be the game changer."

All in all, it wasn't the sharpest performance from this Ravens defense, a group which entered the day as the league's third-ranked D.

Baltimore gave up a whopping 483 yards on the day, by far the most they're allowed all season, allowed the Bengals to pick up 23 first downs, and watched as Cincinnati recorded four plays of 37 yards or more.

But when they needed to, the Ravens got a big stop in a big situation.

"We didn't have ... the perfect game," safety Ed Reed said. "The communication wasn't there all the time ... with Ray (Lewis) not being out there. But guys made plays. They made plays."

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