Reeling Ravens drop to 0-3 with 28-24 setback vs. Bengals
BALTIMORE -- There really isn't any mystery surrounding the Baltimore Ravens' unprecedented 0-3 start.
"We've got to find a way to finish," linebacker C.J. Mosley said after Baltimore twice surrendered the lead in the fourth quarter Sunday in a 28-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Andy Dalton threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 2:10 left, leaving the Ravens winless after three games for the first time in franchise history.
The Bengals (3-0) blew a 14-0 lead and twice trailed in the fourth quarter before Dalton brought them back by repeatedly picking apart the porous Baltimore pass defense.
Dalton went 20 for 32 for 383 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was Green, who finished with 10 catches for a career-high 227 yards and two scores.
Coming back against the Ravens is nothing new for the Bengals, who rallied in the fourth quarter last season in both of their wins over Baltimore (0-3) .
"Stay the course, ran our offense," Green said. "It's not our first rodeo. We've been down, last year, in the same situation. We didn't flinch, man."
The Ravens blew a fourth-quarter lead last week in Oakland after coming up short in the closing minutes at Denver. In their home opener, nothing changed.
"We've had opportunities to win each one of these three games, and we're just not good enough in crunch time situations," Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said. "It's getting us beat."
The Ravens lost despite getting 362 yards passing from Flacco, who twice connected with Steve Smith for touchdowns. Smith had 13 catches for 186 yards, but it wasn't enough to offset a miserable performance by the defense.
Baltimore was the only existing NFL team never to start 0-3. Before this season, it had been a decade since the Ravens began with two straight defeats.
"We had the lead twice in the fourth quarter and couldn't hold onto it," coach John Harbaugh la mented. "So, it's on us."
After the Ravens went ahead for the first time - turning a fumble by Dalton into a 41-yard touchdown return by Mosley for a 17-14 lead with 6:49 left - Green immediately got free and caught a pass in stride that he turned into an 80-yard score. Green broke a tackle by Jimmy Smith, shook off Will Hill and scrambled into the end zone.
Baltimore answered with a 79-yard drive that featured two third-down conversions and ended with Steve Smith catching a 16-yard touchdown pass in front of Dre Kirkpatrick for a 24-21 advantage with just under four minutes to go.
That left plenty of time for Dalton to take the Bengals 80 yards in six plays. The drive included an outstanding one-handed catch by Marvin Jones for 31 yards, just two plays before Green came up with the game-winner.
"Hats off to our guys for hanging in there, driving down the field twice to get back in control of the football game," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said.
At on e point, it appeared as if the game might be a rout. Twice, the Bengals twice missed opportunities to take a 21-0 lead.
Less than two minutes before halftime, Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert had a fourth-down catch in the end zone overturned after replay review determined he never had possession of the ball.
The Bengals' next possession had a similarly frustrating conclusion. After moving Cincinnati from its 29 to the Baltimore 10, Dalton threw his first interception of the season.
The Ravens subsequently moved to midfield before facing a fourth-and-5. Harbaugh, who earlier called for a fake punt that was successful, opted to keep his offense on the field.
The move paid off. Steve Smith caught a sideline pass, twisted free and sprinted down the right side to get Baltimore its first points of the day.
In the end, though, the Bengals had more.
"I feel confident that this team will get it together," said running back Justin Forsett, who finished wi th 13 yards on 10 carries. "I'm not worried about this team."
NOTES: Both teams were affected by penalties. Cincinnati was flagged nine times for 67 yards, and the Ravens were cited for 13 infractions totaling 116 yards. ... Green's 227 yards receiving were the third-most ever allowed by the Ravens. ... An exhausted Steve Smith received intravenous fluids on the sideline in the fourth quarter.