Bengals thumped by Ravens in season finale

Baltimore Ravens' Marquise Brown (15) stiff-arms Cincinnati Bengals cornerback LeShaun Sims (38) to the ground as he returns a punt during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Baltimore Ravens' Marquise Brown (15) stiff-arms Cincinnati Bengals cornerback LeShaun Sims (38) to the ground as he returns a punt during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

Cincinnati finishes season with disappointing 4-11-1 mark

The Cincinnati Bengals wanted to end their disappointing season on a high note. Instead, just about everything that could go wrong did, and they ended up making it easy for the Baltimore Ravens to secure their playoff spot.

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens ran all over the Bengals, and the Cincinnati offense had no answer in a 38-3 loss Sunday in the regular-season finale at Paul Brown Stadium. The Ravens (11-5) needed a win to guarantee their spot in the postseason, but the Bengals (4-11-1) were hoping to play the role of the spoiler and end on a three-game winning streak.

Cincinnati’s late-season momentum quickly came to a halt as the Ravens surged out of the gate against a defense that performed at an all-time low in some regards.

“We’re a better team than we showed today,” said Bengals coach Zac Taylor, who is 6-25-1 but expected to return for a third season. “We ran into a team that’s playing as good of football as we’ve seen all year. They are certainly peaking at the right time, but that was not our best today and that’s not what we expected to put on the field. We are going to have to live with that and continue to build this offseason.”

Baltimore racked up 525 yards of offense, including 404 yards rushing, and Jackson accounted for 97 of them on 11 carries to become the NFL’s first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. Jackson’s third touchdown pass of the day, shortly after he reached 1,005 rushing yards for the season, gave the Ravens a 31-3 lead with 3:44 left in the third quarter and Tyler Huntley replaced him for the remainder of the game.

The most rushing yards the Bengals had allowed in a game prior to Sunday was 313 yards in 1969, but the Ravens smashed that and nearly set an NFL record for most rushing yards in a game. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Detroit rushed for 426 yards against Pittsburgh in 1934.

The Bengals were without cornerbacks William Jackson (concussion) and Mackensie Alexander (illness), and defensive tackle Mike Daniels went on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday.

“It was a challenge,” Taylor said. “We were missing a fair amount of guys out there. That’s no fun, and I don’t question the effort, but there wasn’t anything that stood out there in that regard.”

Meanwhile, Cincinnati managed just 195 yards of offense and couldn’t get two positive records that were in reach for a pair of receivers.

Trying to get A.J. Green his 66th career touchdown catch to tie Chad Johnson for the franchise’s all-time touchdown receptions record, Brandon Allen floated him a pass on a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line at the end of the third quarter and Marcus Peters picked it off in the end zone. Another attempt late in the fourth quarter also was intercepted.

Green was targeted six times and didn’t have a reception in what could be his final game for Cincinnati after 10 seasons. Taylor said the team was just trying to make something happen at the end of drives, and he didn’t want to “speculate on any of that stuff” when asked if he thinks he’s coached Green for the last time.

Tee Higgins nearly took sole possession of the Bengals’ rookie receptions record at 68 on the first pass from Allen, but his 41-yard catch on the first drive was negated by a penalty. The play potentially could have changed the direction of the game for Cincinnati. Instead, Higgins ended up exiting the game with a left hamstring injury and had to settle for sharing the record with Cris Collinsworth, whose 1981 mark Higgins matched last week at Houston. The offense never really got going after that.

Cincinnati went on to punt three straight times without a first down, and by the time the Bengals were able to move the chains on their final drive of the half, Baltimore already had a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. Austin Seibert kicked a 38-yard field goal with 32 seconds left in the half to cap that series.

Allen finished with 48 yards passing and a zero passer rating a week after being named the FedEx Air Player of the Week, and Trayveon Williams led the team with 74 yards on four carries. Samaje Perine had 51 yards on nine rushes.

The Ravens had 258 yards of offense, including 161 on the ground, in the first half, and they picked up right where they left off coming out of halftime with touchdowns on their first three drives to put the game out of reach. Former Ohio State player J.K. Dobbins had a 72-yard touchdown run to finish the scoring.

Cincinnati has plenty of work to do this offseason, starting with re-shaping the staff around Taylor and building around rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who is expected to make a full recovery from recent ACL/MCL surgery.

Reports surfaced this week that the team will part ways with several assistants, which made things somewhat awkward, according to players in postgame interviews. Taylor said “those things will get sorted out this week” but didn’t go into any more detail.

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