Ravens' win over Bengals was anything but business as usual

November 20, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

Just another ho-hum Ravens win, wasn't it?

Doesn't every Ravens win come with their iconic team leader sidelined with turf toe, the first time he's been out of the lineup in four years?

Doesn't every Ravens win feature a hair-tackle on their fast-improving rookie wide receiver, a controversial call late in the game that reverses the other team's touchdown, and a gutty stand by the defense in the waning seconds to seal the victory?

OK, maybe not. But you had all that and more Sunday in the Ravens' up-and-down 31-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. And when it was over, it was exhaustion as much as relief that was written all over the faces of the Ravens and their coaches.

"It was just a great football game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I don't think anyone that saw the football game would leave the stadium feeling like it wasn't worth spending the day at M&T."

A day? This one felt more like a week at the Bank.

But the gritty win pushed the Ravens' record to 7-3 and left them in great position in the tough AFC North. And even though it'll be a short work week with the Harbaugh Bowl and the San Francisco 49ers coming to town Thanksgiving night, the Ravens were savoring a win over a team and a quarterback (Andy Dalton) that, quite frankly, scared them all week.

"We're going to enjoy it tonight," said quarterback Joe Flacco. "You have to enjoy every win you get in the NFL for a little bit, because they're so tough to come by. So we'll enjoy this one, and at the same time move on quickly."

If the Ravens were worried about an emotional let-down with Ray Lewis playing flag-waving cheerleader on the sideline instead of snarling All-Universe middle linebacker, they worried needlessly.

Even though their offense struggled early, the Ravens were up for this one. And maybe most heartening of all, their young guys stepped up when needed most.

Let's start with Torrey Smith. All the rookie wide-out did was haul in six catches for 165 yards to set the Ravens single-season and single-game record by a rookie.

And he did this despite nearly having his head wrenched off late in the second quarter, after he gathered in a 28-yard slant pass from Joe Flacco and Adam Jones dragged him down by his dreadlocks from behind, possibly saving a touchdown.

"That was my first time having it happen," Smith said of the hair-tackle. "I was in shock. I straightened up my back thinking he was going to grab my jersey. Next thing I know, I'm getting pulled by my dreads."

Here's the amazing part: Smith said being yanked by his dreads "didn't hurt at all." In fact, he said, Bengals running back Cedric Benson had also had a couple of his dreads yanked off on an earlier play. In fact, when they were later discovered on the field, a couple of the Ravens had asked Smith: "Torrey, are these your dreads?"

Oh, you gotta love the NFL. Where else do you see this kind of stuff happen?

Asked if he had any plans now to get a haircut, Smith didn't hesitate.

"I honestly thought about it," he said with a smile. "But my grandma likes it a little too much. I'm a mama and grandmama's boy, at least for now."

Memo to Torrey: cut the hair.

Buy grandma a nice Christmas present with some of that loot you got for being the Ravens second-round draft choice and she'll forget all about the dreads. Trust me.

Again, Torrey Smith wasn't the only young guy to come up big against the Bengals.

Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith picked off a Dalton pass late in the third quarter and ran it back 16 yards before coughing it up in a Keystone Cops sequence that saw the Bengals' Jerome Simpson knocking the ball loose and Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo recovering it at the Bengals' 2-yard line.

One play later, Ray Rice slid off right tackle for a touchdown and a 24-14 Ravens lead.

Finally, after a gritty fourth-quarter rally by the Bengals and a fortunate ruling by the officials that reversed an apparent touchdown pass from Dalton to Jermaine Gresham late in the game, another Ravens rookie made a key play to seal the win.

This time it was defensive end Pernell McPhee, sacking Dalton on the Ravens' 22-yard line with 33 seconds remaining, the sell-out crowd on its feet and roaring, and the Bengals threatening to send the game into overtime.

"Just look at the guy who made the play at the end of the game — Pernell McPhee," Rice said. "You expect that would be a [Terrell Suggs] or somebody. But we've got young guys stepping up and making plays. That's what's going to carry us forward."

Now they try to build on this win Thursday night, when John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh stare across the sidelines from each other and try to pretend this is just another game.

Good luck with that.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."

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