Andy Dalton looked over the Baltimore defense and decided to take it himself.
With the help of his offensive line, Dalton made a final push into the end zone on a 1-yard sneak with 57 seconds left, giving the Cincinnati
Bengals a 27-24 victory Sunday that moved them back ahead of Baltimore for the AFC North lead.
Dalton made up for his fourth-quarter fumble and interception that helped the Ravens (5-3) take the lead. The Bengals (4-2-1) put themselves atop the rightly bunched division with one of Dalton’s best drives.
He converted a pair of third-down plays, including a 53-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu on third-and-10. Dalton then took it himself for the final yard.
“That was a cool moment, a cool experience and exactly what we had to have in that situation,” said Dalton, who scored Cincinnati’s first and last touchdowns on 1-yard runs.
There was one more crazy moment left.
Joe Flacco eluded the pass rush and threw a pass to Steve Smith, who caught it and went 80 yards for an apparent touchdown with 32 seconds left. Smith was called for pushing off defender George Iloka to get open, nullifying the play.
“Things happen,” Smith said. “Ultimately you hope you don’t allow plays like that to dictate the determination of a win or a loss. So, it happens. I’m not disappointed, not upset, not frustrated, just exhausted and looking forward to playing next week.”
With that, the Bengals had their first series sweep of the Ravens since 2009. They won the opener 23-16 in Baltimore on A.J. Green’s juggling 77-yard touchdown in the closing minutes.
Green was inactive on Sunday for the third week in a row because of an injured big right toe, hurt in the opener at Baltimore. Sanu filled in and had two big plays while finishing with five catches for a career-high 125 yards.
Dalton’s sneak ended the Bengals’ streak of two losses and a tie in the last three weeks.
“We haven’t had much sleep for a couple of weeks here,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
Some things learned from another dramatic finish:
WILD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN THEY’RE TOGETHER: In the season opener in Baltimore, the Ravens took their first lead on Smith’s 80-yard touchdown catch with 5:46 left. The Bengals responded with Green’s touchdown less than a minute later. They’ve developed a knack for back-and-forth games full of big plays. The latest might have been the most remarkable of all.
“Great football game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I mean, the players and the coaches played one of the greatest you’re ever going to see.”
DALTON KEEPS HIS COMPOSURE: Dalton made good decisions in the decisive drive, completing 3 of 5 for 62 yards and converting a pair of third downs. He also made the right call by deciding to take it himself on the final play. The biggest knock on Dalton has been how he’s struggled in the playoff losses each of the past three seasons. In a game the Bengals desperately need after three bad weeks, he was on when it mattered.
“He was like, ‘We’re good, we’ve got this,'” Sanu said.
CINCINNATI’S DEFENSE RETURNS: The Bengals had given up 505, 431 and 506 yards in the past three games against New England, Carolina and Indianapolis. They held the Ravens to 294 yards, their second-lowest total of the season. Flacco finished with a passer rating of 43.1, going 17 of 34 for 195 yards with two interceptions and a sack by Geno Atkins.
RAVENS WASTE CHANCES: Just like in the season opener, the Ravens came away lamenting wasted chances. They put together an 18-play drive on their opening possession, but Flacco’s fourth-down pass from the 1-yard line was incomplete, making it the longest drive without points in franchise history. Baltimore also had a 10-play drive that ended with a field goal.
“It’s another game where we get down there on the 1-yard line and can’t score,” Flacco said. “I love that we’re going for it. We just have to make the plays, and we have to get in the end zone.”
INJURIES: Ravens WR Torrey Smith left for a concussion exam but returned. WR Michael Campanaro pulled a hamstring in the third quarter and didn’t return. CB Jimmy Smith left with a foot injury during Cincinnati’s opening drive. The Ravens also had to shuffle offensive linemen because of injuries.
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict came out of the game during Baltimore’s opening series after hurting his left knee but returned. RG Kevin Zeitler reinjured his right calf, which forced him to miss three games.