By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. The Ravens were all but locked into the 4th seed and the Bengals secured a 6th seed spot prior to the game. What fans watched on Sunday was nothing more than a dress rehearsal for the postseason.
The Ravens did the right thing by benching their starters in this contest. Baltimore has a multitude of quality players and had to play some of them in this game. But the important members of the team saw little to no action. Flacco played a couple of series just to keep his streak of consecutive games alive. Ray Rice saw the field for one series before being yanked from the game. Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata didn’t even suit up. And besides Vonta Leach and Kelechi Osemele being banged up after the game, the Ravens came away from this game healthy.
And after injuries all but cost this team a first round bye this season, it was good for the players to get some much needed rest. John Harbaugh got all he wanted out of this game, even if he chooses not to admit it.
Check the message boards and social media sites, and you’ll find a small group of fans who believe Tyrod Taylor should start over Joe Flacco. After Sunday’s game, it’s a safe bet that those fans are a lot quieter now. Taylor showed flashes of athleticism but was overall ineffective against the Bengals defense. He threw for only 149 yards and a pick-6 that sealed the game for the Bengals.
The Ravens running attack was very effective. Baltimore has a stud in Bernard Pierce. Don’t be surprised if he makes a huge impact on their postseason run. Anthony Allen punched in a score from inside the 5 and looks to be a good option at the goal line for the team. The Ravens couldn’t find an answer for Vontaze Burfict who finished the game with 18 tackles.
The Ravens’ defense never really got it going this season. But the reserves played admirably today. This game will benefit the defense in the long run more so than the offense. Josh Bynes led the team in tackles with 9. He’s really stepped up and made the loss of Jameel McClain less noticeable. Dannell Ellerbe saw an extended period of time and continues to impress. Ravens CB Jimmy Smith has struggled all season, but on Sunday he stepped up. For a first round pick, he hasn’t lived up to the expectations. Chykie Brown has played lights out football for the past few weeks. He’s a kid to watch out for as the Ravens begin their postseason.
Special Teams: B
Pro Bowl PR/KR Jacoby Jones tried to make things happen for the offense. The Bengals did a good job of keeping him away from the ball on punt returns. Justin Tucker missed a kick from 45 yards. Best he gets those misses out of the way now before the playoffs start.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.