A lot at stake for Bengals in primetime matchup vs. Ravens

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — The last time the Cincinnati Bengals played the Baltimore Ravens, quarterback Joe Burrow wasn’t moving around so well, and then he re-aggravated his previously strained calf during the game.

Burrow and the Bengals head into the rematch at Baltimore on Thursday in a game with higher stakes.

Cincinnati (5-4) is trying to gain ground in the AFC North standings. The Bengals are in last place while first-place Baltimore (7-3) let the rest of the division back into the race with a late loss to Cleveland on Sunday. The Bengals and Ravens meet in primetime for a second straight year at M&T Bank Stadium.

“Whenever we play these guys, it’s always a battle,” Burrow said. “Whatever the records are, they are. Every time we play these guys, it’s tough, and there will always be a lot at stake. It’s a big part of the year for both of us. They’re coming off a loss, we’re coming off a loss, we’re both trying to win the division. It’s a big game.”

Cincinnati and Baltimore played three times last season, including a 19-17 win for the Ravens at home on Sunday Night Football. Cincinnati then notched back-to-back wins at home in the regular-season finale and wild card playoff game.

In their Week 2 home matchup this season, the Bengals faced two 10-point deficits in the second half but rallied twice to draw within three points only to come up short in the end. Tee Higgins caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Burrow with 3:28 left but the Ravens converted two third downs on the ensuing possession and were able to run down the clock for a 27-24 win.

“I wasn’t obviously feeling my best at that point,” Burrow said. “I didn’t quite have my full toolbox in there. I thought we did some good things in the second half. The first half we didn’t have a ton of plays. They did a good job. We found some explosives in the second half. That’s what we have to try to do. They do a great job of limiting those explosive plays and you have to try to find them, because they’re going to do a really good job on offense keeping the ball, running it and scoring points. We’re going to have to do the same.”

The Ravens ran for 178 yards against Cincinnati last time out, and Baltimore is a team that use up a lot of clock and limits possession time. That tends to create a greater sense of urgency for the opposing offense because each drive feels that much more important.

Burrow said he learned a lesson Sunday in the loss to Houston that he needs to do a better job “flipping the switch” on knowing when to be aggressive and when to slow down. He threw a pick in the endzone in the fourth quarter and had another interception deep in Texans’ territory as he was trying to lead the Bengals back from a 10-point deficit.

“It’s something you’ve got to feel out,” Burrow said. “In the second half, I entered aggressive mode and tried to make quite a bit of plays. Then I made a couple decisions that I probably wouldn’t have made had the situation not been what it was. Some mistakes you’d like to have back. In the same sentence, you try to be aggressive knowing their offense is playing really well and their defense is playing well. You’re trying to make plays. ... But for the most part, I need to get better in that situation at turning the switch on and off. Being aggressive in spots and knowing when to take the foot off the pedal.”

Asked if he would need to be more aggressive against the Ravens than other teams, Burrow said it just depends on how the game is going. It’s still unclear what weapons he will have available, with wide receiver Tee Higgins still working back from a hamstring injury.

Baltimore has the best scoring defense in the league right now, allowing just 15,7 points per game. The Ravens also rank second in yards allowed with opponents averaging 273.6 yards per game, including 173.1 yards passing (fourth fewest).

“They’re obviously very physical at all positions, from the outside in, and they do a great job of disguising coverages,” Burrow said. “You never quite know what it is pre-snap. So you’ve got to be on your P’s and Q’s post-snap knowing where you’ve got to go with the football against every look.”

The Bengals offense also will have to deal with communication issues that come with a road game, and being a primetime atmosphere, the environment likely will be taken up a notch.

“It’s a fun environment,” Burrow said. “It gets loud. It kind of feels like a college atmosphere in those primetime moments, so it’s going to be fun. That’s what you like about football. You like going into those environments, challenging yourself with teams like this in situations like this. It’s a big opportunity for us.”


Bengals at Ravens, 8:15 p.m., Amazon Prime, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

About the Author