After a quick start, the Cincinnati Bengals stalled out in the second half, but they managed fend off the Baltimore Ravens’ comeback effort for a 34-23 win Thursday in the home opener at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati squandered a 28-7 first-half advantage, as the Ravens scored 16 straight points to make it a five-point game in the fourth quarter.
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But with the game in jeopardy, the Bengals finally responded to end a 30-minute scoring drought with a crucial 28-yard field goal from Randy Bullock with 2:59 left. The defense then followed suit with safety Shawn Williams forcing a fumble on a sack of Joe Flacco three plays from scrimmage later, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick recovered to set Cincinnati up for another Bullock field goal from 40 yards to seal it.
The win put Cincinnati (2-0) alone atop the AFC North, as the Ravens fell to 1-1.
The Bengals had taken a 28-14 lead into halftime after scoring the first 21 points of the game on three touchdown passes from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. Rookie safety Jessie Bates recorded his first career interception to put the Bengals at the Ravens’ 16-yard line, and Cincinnati took advantage of the short field to get things started with a 4-yard pass from Dalton to Green.
The dynamic duo combined on two more touchdown plays of 32 and 7 yards as the Bengals scored 45 consecutive points dating back to Sunday’s win against Indianapolis before the Ravens ended the streak. They got on the board on a 1-yard touchdown run from Javorius Allen with 8:20 left in the second quarter.
Cincinnati answered immediately with another scoring drive, capped by Dalton’s fourth touchdown pass of the night. Tyler Boyd hauled it in on a 14-yard catch for a 28-7 lead with 2:58 left before halftime, and it would be a full two quarters before the team’s next score.
As quick as the Bengals offense got to work Thursday, the defense deserved much of the credit for the fast start.
Sacks led to punts on three of the Ravens’ first four drives, and Bates came up with his interception – and a 16-yard return — on the other one. Geno Atkins had two of the sacks on third down, and rookie Sam Hubbard picked up his first career sack to push Baltimore back 11 yards on first down before a punt to set up the Bengals’ second scoring drive.
Cincinnati punted its first series on offense but scored on the next four consecutive drives. Baltimore ended the half with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Mark Andrews with eight seconds left in the second quarter.
The Bengals lost rookie center Billy Price to an ankle injury in the second quarter, and Joe Mixon was limited by a knee injury suffered in the first half as well but still managed to carry the ball 21 times for 84 yards. Dalton completed 24 of 42 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.