The Cincinnati Bengals had given away a 15-point lead, were still in search of their first touchdown and seemed poised to absorb another devastating defeat in their personal House of Pain.
That’s when receiver A.J. Green got into the huddle and told his teammates, ”We got one play. Let’s make this play.”’
Green did more than just talk. He caught a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton with 4:58 left to provide Cincinnati with a feel-good 23-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Green got behind cornerback Chykie Brown, who was pressed into a starting role for the injured Lardarius Webb.
Brown got a hand on the ball, which popped from Green’s grasp before he gathered it in. After putting a fake on safety Darian Stewart, Green trotted into the end zone.
The subsequent 2-point conversion made it 23-16, and the Bengals held on.
”It’s big for the team, man,” Green said. ”Just taking that next step to being a great team. I think these games right here prepare us for going into the postseason. When we’re not scoring every play, when it comes down to making that play, I think that game will help us.”
Dalton went 25 for 38 for 301 yards to help the Bengals end a four-game losing streak in Baltimore.
”We did exactly what we set out to do there today,” Dalton said. ”There are a lot of tough places to play in this league and this is certainly one of the toughest. It was the only place I had not won since joining the Bengals.”
The go-ahead score came just 48 seconds after Baltimore newcomer Steve Smith caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco, who overcame a slow start to finish 35 for 62 for 345 yards and an interception.
It was the longest touchdown throw of Flacco’s career, but the offense as a whole sputtered in its first outing under coordinator Gary Kubiak.
”We played just about as bad as you can in terms of just simple fundamental things,” Flacco said.
Following Green’s score, Flacco took the Ravens to the Cincinnati 16 before he was sacked on third and fourth down, the last with 55 seconds left.
”I knew I had to make a play to make the first down, and I just couldn’t do it,” Flacco said.
Mike Nugent kicked five field goals to give the Bengals a 15-0 halftime lead.
Baltimore cut it to 15-10 before Smith broke his pattern to go deep as Flacco scrambled out of the pocket. Smith hauled in a pass along the left sideline and shook off Adam ”Pacman” Jones with his right arm before stepping into the end zone.
”We had a little scramble drill. Joe told me to go so I went,” Smith said. ”He threw a great ball.”
Smith, who played 13 seasons with Carolina before signing as a free agent, finished with seven catches for 118 yards in his Ravens debut.
Playing without starting running back Ray Rice, who began a two-game suspension for domestic violence, the Ravens mustered only 91 yards rushing.
Starter Bernard Pierce, who gained 14 yards on six carries and lost a fumble, was overshadowed by Justin Forsett, who ran for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Both teams were affected by injuries. Baltimore placed Webb on the inactive list with a back injury, and Dalton repeatedly picked on Brown.
The Bengals lost Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a concussion late in the second quarter, and tight end Tyler Eifert left in the first half with a right elbow injury.
Flacco was booed by many in the sellout crowd after throwing an interception to end a promising third-quarter possession. On Baltimore’s next series, however, Flacco finally put together his first scoring drive of the season.
Completing six of seven passes for 63 yards, he moved the Ravens 82 yards for a touchdown – a 13-yard run by Forsett.
Baltimore’s defense then produced its first three-and-out, and Flacco followed with a 14-play drive that produced a 38-yard field goal to make it 15-10 with 10:28 remaining.
Nugent connected on field goals of 49, 22, 28, 46 and 38 yards before halftime, and Baltimore’s lone sustained drive ended horribly on the final play of the half.
Down 15-0, the Ravens moved to the Cincinnati 15 with 8 seconds left. Flacco bounced around in the pocket, cut right as time expired and was sacked, ending Baltimore’s chance to at least get a field goal.
NOTES: Jeromy Miles got Baltimore’s first blocked field goal since Kelly Gregg against Cincinnati on October 11, 2009. … Dalton is 31-18 as a starter, the best in Bengals history for a QB with 10 or more starts. … The loss stops Baltimore’s eight-game home opener winning streak, dating back to 2006.