Coach John Harbaugh said there aren’t “any feelings” when it comes to the Ravens and Bengals playing once again, this time in the playoffs. But Sunday’s game belied that sentiment.
The Ravens were short-handed during their regular-season finale in Cincinnati as several starters rested ahead of the playoffs, but the game wasn’t any less competitive or chippy because of it.
A seldom-used Bengals lineman sparked a sideline confrontation between the teams, two Ravens rookies exchanged heated words with the opponents and the Bengals utilized choreographed celebrations as Cincinnati topped Baltimore, 27-16, on Sunday.
The matchup’s outcome was mostly decided after the Bengals jumped out to an early lead, but still, the game featured some animosity, and there could be more in next week’s installment of Bengals vs. Ravens, Part Three.
The Ravens could have played all of their starters Sunday in an attempt to earn home-field advantage in the AFC wild-card round (if they’d won and then won a coin toss), but Harbaugh ultimately decided not to. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey likened Sunday’s game to a “scrimmage,” since the all-important matchup comes next week, but it still had the feel of a passionate prelude.
Next week will mark the third time the rivals have played this season and the first time they’ve ever faced one another in the playoffs.
“I don’t have any feelings about it,” Harbaugh said of playing the Bengals again. “There are no feelings. There is just preparation and getting ready to go compete.”
But the game had fiery moments. The teams nearly got into a shoving match when Bengals lineman Jackson Carman blocked outside linebacker Tyus Bowser into the Ravens’ sideline in the second half, prompting Ravens players to swarm Carman and other Bengals to rush over.
“He just wanted to make an impression for his guys,” outside linebacker Justin Houston said of Carman, a backup. “If he was out there the whole game, he definitely wouldn’t have done that. He ain’t got the energy to do it.”
The Bengals, who have won eight straight games, celebrated a pair of interceptions with a coordinated routine and Joe Mixon made fun of the NFL’s playoff scenario decision-making by pulling a coin out of his glove, flipping it and kicking it alongside teammates to celebrate the Bengals’ first touchdown.
Just before halftime, Ravens rookie center Tyler Linderbaum and safety Kyle Hamilton had what appeared to be a lively discussion with Cincinnati players.
The game’s contentiousness only added to the drama that’s set for next week, as two rivals face off in a postseason matchup.
“It was just the nature of the game. Both teams [were] playing hard, so it was nothing personal, but we’ll be ready to go next week, and so will they,” Linderbaum said.
The Ravens won the squads’ Week 5 matchup and the teams are 1-1 heading into next week’s rubber match, with the winner advancing to the divisional round. Humphrey called it “kind of exciting” to play them once again.
“We kind of just studied them, so as [safety] Chuck [Clark] said, ‘We just had a scrimmage.’ It was a scrimmage we wish we would have won, obviously, but to play them again, they’re pretty familiar with us, [and] we’re pretty familiar with them,” he said. “So, it’s just going to be who’s a better team. I think when you play a team three times, the better team should usually show.”
When asked about the game’s intensity level, inside linebacker Roquan Smith said “it was very high.”
“We came up short, but, hey I’m looking forward to next week, seeing these guys again,” Smith said with a smile. “I think it’ll be even sweeter then, for all the marbles.”
Defensive end Calais Campbell, who nearly notched his 100th career sack in the game, but came up short, said afterwards that the Cincinnati crowd was “talking a little trash.” Within a matter of days, the Ravens will be back at Paycor Stadium, in front of that same crowd, playing the same team — this time, in a game with substantially more meaning.
“It’s a division opponent that we know very well, they know us very well,” he said. “There’s a lot of passion behind the ballgame. That’s what it’s all about. It’s win or go home.”
Ravens at Bengals
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