didn’t give much Baltimore Ravens likely to confuse divisional rivals Cincinnati Bengals in the wild card round of the playoffs. The Bengals were the 8.5-point favorites on their 7th straight win heading into the postseason. Meanwhile, the Ravens continued their stretch with star quarterback Lamar Jackson missing and backup Tyler Huntley behind center.
Still, the Ravens dominated the Bengals for much of Sunday night. They gained 364 to 234 yards over their rivals, averaging one play (5.5) yards more than the Bengals (4.3), and Huntley was outperforming his Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in All-Pro.
After fending off an early interception, Huntley gave the Ravens some offensive life. He led the Ravens with an impressive 17-play, 75-yard drive that brought Baltimore within two points. Minutes later, he was able to adjust his two-minute drill to give the Ravens his improbable 10-9 lead into the first half.
Huntley was gearing up for a fight when the Bengals opened fire in the second half. After Barrow retook the lead for Cincinnati late in the third quarter, the Ravens quarterback just three minutes later, DeMarcus gave Robinson a 41-yard touchdown on his bomb to tie the game.
Then came the all-important drive in the game. Initially, Drive had all the makings of a career-changing moment for Huntley. He dropped a pass into the bucket and sent it to tight end Mark Andrews for a 25-yard gain on third and one. On the very next play, he took his option for the Bengals to take his 35-yard lead all the way down his line two yards. He was six feet away from giving the Ravens a touchdown lead over their division rivals with less than 13 minutes left in the game.
After three plays, it was the Bengals who had a lead that did not relinquish the rest of the game.
During those moments, Huntley made a critical mistake that cost the Ravens the season. Faced with goals one to three, the Ravens dialed up a quarterback sneak. Bengals linebackers Jermaine Pratt and Logan Wilson were waiting for him there. Wilson punched the ball out of Huntley’s hands and landed well in the hands of Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard Did.
Ravens coach Jon Harbaugh confirmed that the plan to play would be low after the game.
“It wasn’t done the right way,” says Harbaugh. “Tyler has gone too far. That’s burrowing. He has to keep it low. That’s how the play is designed.”
Huntley thought the defense was giving him plenty of headroom, but he hoped he went low on play.
“Yeah, maybe they didn’t quite give it back,” said Huntley. The (line) backers felt pretty good on the line, so I just tried to play.”
The Ravens are in the middle of a quarterback crisis. Jackson is nearing the end of his contract and Baltimore has been unable to come to an agreement with the former MVP in his two offseason negotiations. Baltimore claims it will resume talks at an appropriate time, but some question Jackson’s interest in returning based on a knee injury that has sat him out the last six games. More questions were raised Sunday night when Jackson reported that he didn’t even travel with the team for the wild card game.
Harbaugh did not comment on Jackson’s situation after the game, but praised Huntley, who had dealt with two injuries on his own, for his courageous effort in a tough position.
“I think he’s recovered from his shoulder and wrist injuries, fought back on the field and gave everything he had in a performance like that.”
The Ravens head back to Baltimore to figure out where to go from here. The Bengals will face the Bills in the Divisional Round.