Ravens Take Stranglehold of Second Spot in AFC Playoff Picture With Dominant Win Against Bengals

After falling in heartbreaking fashion to the Browns, the Ravens took it out on the Bengals using an awfully familiar style of football.

With franchise legend Ray Lewis watching in the suites, the Baltimore Ravens delivered the kind of night reminiscent of when No. 52 and the entire defense were flying around delivering the punishment.

Baltimore pummeled the Cincinnati Bengals 34-20 in a critical AFC North showdown on Thursday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium. The victors turned to a familiar blueprint that would’ve likely made the NFL Hall of Famer gleam — using a suffocating defense in the month of November.

In the process, that traditional approach for Baltimore has increased its stranglehold even more in an uber-competitive AFC North. The Ravens now move to 8-3 while sending the Bengals and the rest of the division two to three games back behind them.

Ravens Bottled the Bengals’ Trio of Weapons

Baltimore had gotten used to dealing with the dynamics of Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, and Ja’Marr Chase during the Bengals’ rise to AFC dominance. But Cincinnati’s three were handed one of their worst nights of the season, courtesy of the Ravens’ defense.

Burrow never got to finish the game with a bad wrist on his throwing hand. He began clutching his right wrist following his four-yard touchdown pass to Mixon. Burrow never returned and was ruled out with a sprained right wrist.

But even when he was on the field, Burrow was held to an average of just 5.9 yards per play.

How were the Ravens able to frustrate Burrow before his injury?

Noted by Nate Tice of The Athletic, the third-down defense erased any passing window Burrow had early.

Once Burrow left and Jake Browning was thrown in, the Ravens threw their array of blitzes at him.

Baltimore snatched him up for three sacks and had five total on the night. Justin Madubuike, Odafe Oweh, Tavius Robinson, Kyle Van Noy, and Jadeveon Clowney — the latter two new to the Ravens’ ways — got involved in the sack party.

There’s more outside of Burrow. His most explosive target, Chase, ended up becoming a non-factor. Second-year pro Kyle Hamilton, once drafted in the first round to tangle with WRs like Chase in the division, set the tone right away.

In the end, Chase got bottled to two catches for 12 yards, new season lows for him.

Finally, the Ravens’ run defense contained Mixon to 69 rushing yards. But in the process, they ended his current streak of three games of scoring a rushing touchdown. And, for the second time this season, Mixon’s longest run versus this defense only stretched to 14 yards.

Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen combined for 20 tackles in helping make the dominating defense display happen.

John Harbaugh Reacts to Ravens’ Dominating Night

John Harbaugh has now led Baltimore to the sweep of the defending AFC North champs.

While known as an offensive guru, Harbaugh beamed about the defensive night.

“I think our defense played outstanding,” Harbaugh said postgame. “You’re playing against the fact that they run the same offense regardless of who the quarterback is. But our defense played outstanding.

“I thought we did a great job with our zone pass coverages as far as running, tackling, and keeping the ball in front of you. We didn’t miss many tackles, and nothing got over our head,” Harbaugh said.

The biggest play Cincy delivered was a 21-yard catch by Tanner Hudson.

Does the Road Get Easier for Baltimore?

Now with a more comfortable lead in the race for the division crown, how much comfort do the Ravens have moving forward in looking at the remaining schedule?

Half of Baltimore’s remaining games are at home. But the leftover schedule is filled with teams either battling for their playoff lives or aiming to rebound from a disastrous Sunday.

MORE: Cincinnati Bengals Observations From a Devastating 34-20 Loss to the Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore now heads across the nation to face the Los Angeles Chargers next — the same Chargers who dropped a crucial November game to the Detroit Lions on a walk-off field goal. Then a struggling 3-6 Rams team goes to Charm City the subsequent week.

From there, two critical road trips against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that got dropped 34-3 on Sunday, followed by a San Francisco 49ers team in Santa Clara that snapped their three-game slide versus the Jags.

Lastly, the final gauntlet involves the current No. 3 seed Miami Dolphins and the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers…both in Baltimore.

Past Ravens teams during the Lewis years cranked up the intensity dial once the calendar read November. This Ravens team turned up in front of him on TNF, and in the process, Baltimore tightened their hold on a competitive division title race while also wanting a grip on the AFC’s top seed.

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