The only drama in the final minutes at M&T Bank Stadium was if the Bengals could turn zero points into three.
Marching down the field with the game already decided, the Bengals ran the ball on seven straight plays to get into field goal position to end the shutout. In their only offensive victory of the day, they did.
The Ravens’ defense swarmed quarterback Joe Burrow all afternoon and sacked him seven times, hitting him on 15 dropbacks, as they added a defensive score late in the game for good measure in a 27-3 blowout of the Bengals.
“We didn’t want them to score at all,” inside linebacker Patrick Queen said. “The three points that they got, we didn’t want them to have. That’s what we were fighting so hard for on those few short yardage plays. We were just fighting and fighting, because we did not want them to get any points. We did not want to let up, and we did. We’re going to fix the stuff that we messed up on down there, but at the end of the day, we played a great game.”
Queen’s scoop-and-score in the fourth quarter was just icing on the cake for a defense that made life a nightmare for the NFL’s first overall pick.
A forced fumble by cornerback Marlon Humphrey and the recovery by Queen sent the Ravens’ rookie inside linebacker streaking down the field and into the end zone to put the stamp on a dominant performance from start to finish — no matter the pity field goal.
The Ravens ended up just short of their first shutout since Week 6 of 2018, but for all intents and purposes, the defense didn’t allow anything meaningful to Burrow and the Bengals’ talented host of skill players.
Queen, facing his former LSU teammate and occasional combatant in Burrow, had his best game as a pro. He was tied for a game-high nine tackles, tallied a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in addition to his touchdown.
“I knew when I got drafted and Joe got drafted that we were going to be seeing each other twice a year,” Queen said. “So, it’s the start of a great rivalry. I’m glad I got the first win out of it.”
But it wasn’t only Queen that got involved. In fact, every defensive player seemingly did.
Chuck Clark, Pernell McPhee, Marlon Humphrey, DeShon Elliott, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith each had one sack. As a team, they hit Burrow 15 times.
The Ravens’ front got after Burrow, but so did the rest of the defense.
“I think it’s kind of emblematic of what you guys have watched here the last three years,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s kind of how we piece it together. It won’t be that way every week. It’ll change from week to week, but that’s something I’m really pleased with. We’re capable of doing it, and I think we have the guys to do it, too. Our guys bring it now. They’re good blitzers, and they can tackle.”
A besieged Burrow threw for 183 yards after three straight 300-plus yard games. He didn’t throw a touchdown for the first time since Week 1 and threw an interception while staring down Clark and throwing off his back foot.
The running attack didn’t fare much better, as talented back Joe Mixon totaled 59 yards on 24 carries. His longest carry of the day was seven yards.
The Ravens managed to keep the group of wideouts quiet, as rookie Tee Higgins had 62 yards on four receptions. No other receiver went over 50 yards.
The Ravens’ defense was so good, in fact, that Humphrey was talked about as a Defensive Player of The Year candidate by some of the players on both offense and defense. That includes last year’s league MVP Lamar Jackson.
“Marlon – I feel like he should be up for defensive MVP,” Jackson said. “If not, you could give it to him early.”
While the Bengals certainly don’t represent the biggest challenge of the season for the Ravens, the performance Sunday was no doubt a welcome sign for a defense still looking to find its top form.
The blitzes were confusing for Burrow and the Bengals’ offensive line, the front seven was swarming and the secondary was opportunistic.
And the more experience the Ravens are able to collect throughout the season, the more this type of performance will occur against top-notch opponents.
“The players are the ones to do it,” Harbaugh said. “It’s one thing to put a gameplan together, and that’s good, and that’s important and valuable, and we really value it. I really do. I think ‘Wink’ did a great job and the whole staff, but let’s give credit to the players, really, above all. Sunday is the players’ day, and those guys came out and executed. (They) played with great discipline, great energy, and it was really great to see.”