- Jay Morrison Staff Writer
The Cincinnati Bengals pulled off one of the most stunning wins of the Marvin Lewis era on Sunday when Andy Dalton converted on fourth and 12 by hitting Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown with 44 seconds left against Baltimore.
The improbable score lifted the Bengals to a 31-27 victory and eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention.
Here are 6 things to know about the game:
The Bengals ran for 146 yards, which was 5 yards shy of their season high, and they did against the league’s No. 9-ranked defense.
They also did it with a patchwork offensive line for the second week in a row after putting up 142 last week against Detroit.
Not only were they second- and third-highest totals of the season, they came after the team was forced to scramble when left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi went down with a shoulder injury. Left guard Clint Boling moved out to play tackle for the first time in his career, and guards Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman saw their first significant action of their young careers which began in 2016.
According to Pro Football Focus, Boling allowed pressure on only 6.2 percent of the snaps. In Week 17, his overall grade of 84.2 was second best among all tackles.
The late surge, however, wasn’t enough to keep the Bengals from setting a franchise record for fewest rushing yards in a 14- or 16-game season with 1,366 (the previous low was 1,439 in 1995). But by averaging 4.9 yards per carry Sunday, they did avoid setting the franchise record in that category by finishing at 3.62, narrowly ahead of the low mark of 3.56 set in 2010.
Joe Mixon had 96 yards on 18 carries (5.3), while Giovani Bernard gained 52 on 10 attempts (5.2).
Baltimore wide receiver Chris Moore was involved in the two longest plays of the game, one which led to seven points for the Ravens and one which produced seven points for the Bengals.
Baltimore began what looked like it would be a stirring comeback to make the playoffs on Chris Moore’s 87-yard kickoff return with eight seconds left in the first half.
The big play came after Bengals kicker Randy Bullock had given the Bengals a 17-3 lead on a 32-yard field goal with 23 seconds left before halftime. And it set up Moore’s 6-yard touchdown catch one play later.
The Ravens appeared to be on their way to a game-tying score on the first drive of the second half until Moore bobbled a Joe Flacco pass at the Cincinnati 11-yard line, resulting in an interception that Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard returned 89 yards for a touchdown to boost the lead to 24-10.
Moore wouldn’t touch the ball again after leaving the game with a concussion a short time later.
Sunday’s game marked the fourth time in the last five trips to Baltimore the Bengals have come from behind to score either the game-winning or game-tying touchdown in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
The three previous instances all involved A.J. Green touchdowns – game-winning 7-yarder in 2015, game-winning 77-yarder in 2014 and game-tying 51-yarder in 2013 – but the Pro Bowl receiver was a non-factor for much of Sunday’s win, catching just two passes on 10 targets for 17 yards.
His lack of production was offset by Boyd’s heroics as the second-year receiver’s game-winning touchdown gave him a career-high 91 receiving yards, and his five catches tied the season high he set last week in the win against Detroit.
Tight end Tyler Kroft also had a big day, tying his career-high with six catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns, which also tied his career high.
Green’s disappearing act actually began long before the Bengals touched down in Baltimore. Since halftime of the Week 13 game against Pittsburgh, he has just 15 receptions on 40 targets for 212 yards.
According to Pro Football Focus, since Week 14 Green had the third worst passer rating (36.8) when targeted among 85 receivers with at least 11 targets. Over that same period, Boyd was targeted 16 times with a passer rating of 118.0, 13th best.
Sunday’s victory means the Cincinnati Bengals will pick 12th in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The last time the Bengals drafted 12th was 1190 when they selected linebacker James Francis. Looking at recent drafts to get an idea of the type of player that should be available to them, the last five players to go No. 12 overall are: Quarterback Deshaun Watson (Texans, 2017), defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (Saints, 2016), defensive tackle Danny Shelton (Browns, 2015), wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants, 2014) and cornerback D.J. Hayden (Raiders, 2013).
Sunday’s results also finalized the Bengals’2018 opponents. Cincinnati went into the day locked into a third-place finish in the AFC North, but its final two opponents next year– the third-place finishers in the AFC East and AFC South – were dependent on other games.
The Colts’ win against the Texans means the Bengals will travel to Indianapolis in addition to Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Atlanta and Carolina.
The Jets’ loss to the Patriots means the Bengals will play host to Miami in addition to Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, Oakland, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
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Hot and cold
The game-time temperature of 19 degrees was the coldest in the history of M&T Bank Stadium, which opened in 1996, and was one degree shy of equaling the coldest Bengals game in the Marvin Lewis era – a 14-0 win at Cleveland on Dec. 21, 2008.
Earlier this year, the Bengals played the hottest game in the xx-year history of Lambeau Field when it was 89 degrees for their 27-24 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 24.
Punter Kevin Huber struggled kicking the frozen balls, and it cost him a chance to break his own franchise record.
Huber entered the game averaging 47.0 yards per punt, a record pace to top the mark of 46.84 he set in his Pro Bowl season of 2014. But Huber averaged just 42.8 yards on eight punts Sunday, dropping his season average to 46.60, which is good for the second best average in franchise history.
Huber now owns the top four season averages in Bengals annals.