BALTIMORE – Five instant observations watching the Ravens defeat the Bengals, 19-14, which kept Baltimore (6-5) atop the AFC North, holding the tie-breaker over the Steelers (6-5):
1. Another excellent performance by the Ravens’ defense
Yes, the Bengals were missing two key weapons – wide receiver A. J. Green and running back Gionvani Bernard. But anytime you hold an NFL team without a touchdown, you are doing something right. The Ravens’ strength is defense, and it was stingy again today. Elvis Dumervil, in his first game since Week 5, made the game-clinching play, making a strip sack of quarterback Andy Dalton that was recovered by the Lawrence Guy of the Ravens with 1:05 left. The Ravens’ defense gives them a legitimate chance to win the AFC North.
2. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is money
Tucker has made 34 straight field goal attempts, and he made four field goals in this game, including three from beyond 50 yards. Matt Stover has the franchise record with 36 consecutive made field goals, and Tuckers is closing in on it. The Ravens play a ton of close games, so you know Tucker will be asked to make clutch kicks down the stretch. He’s a security blanket so many teams wish they had.
3. Terrell Suggs playing with one good arm is pretty darn good
Suggs had two strip sacks and showed up at key moments, as usual. That’s very impressive for someone playing with a torn biceps, in his 14th season. Suggs has always been a special player, and he’s showing why.
4. Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon is emerging as a key part of the Ravens offense
Dixon (13 carries, 49 yards) rarely goes down on first contact and also has sure hands out of the backfield. Now that he’s healthy, expect Dixon to play more and more. It’s not that Terrance West is starting to fade. But Dixon is more explosive and his legs are fresh. If the Ravens keep feeding him, Dixon will make plays.
5. The Bengals (3-7-1) are toast
After making the playoffs for five straight years, the Bengals look headed for an early vacation. Injuries have played a part, but the Bengals were not playing well even before Green (hamstring) and Bernard (knee) went down. It’s hard to see the Bengals winning five straight to end the season, and even if they do, that may not be enough.
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