Even though the Baltimore Ravens rested several key starters in their Week 18 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, the regular season finale bout between the two division rivals still ended up being and certainly feeling like a classic AFC slugfest.
The final box score of 27-16 wasn’t indicative of how close and hard-fought the game actually was and the short-handed Ravens gave the full-strength Bengals all they could handle and then some.
They were extremely physical before and sometime after the whistle on both sides of the ball throughout the contest and according to The Athletic’s Jay Morrison per The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer, some of the Bengals players took exception to what they believed was ‘dirty’ play.
Cincinnati rookie cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt accused several of Baltimore’s offensive players in particular of doing such things as intentionally trying to injure some of his teammates with low blows and other hits he believed to be unsportsmanlike.
“There was a lot of cheap (expletive) going on,” Taylor-Britt said. “Just know that we owe them. Even though we won this (expletive), we owe them.”
The Ravens still played a number of starters on defense and those that suited up made their presence felt early and often from start until the finish as they made it extremely tough for the Bengals to move the ball or even hold onto it for that matter as the game went on.
From Pro Bowlers and prized free agent additions like inside linebacker Roquan Smith and free safety Marcus Williams to depth players fresh off injured reserve that mainly play special teams up to that point, the hits that they consistently delivered on Cincinnati pass catchers and ball carriers were vicious but well within the rules of the game.
In an ultra-aggressive and highly competitive contact sport like football, chippiness is to be expected and when two division rivals are going at it, they are even more prevalent. Countless Bengals fans took to social media to express their displeasure and take exception to what they perceived as examples of ‘dirty’ play and behaviors by Ravens players during the game.
However, not all of the Bengals players felt the same way as Taylor-Britt and some others. Pro Bowl veteran defensive end Trey Hendrickson wasn’t surprised that the extra level of intensity resulted in some extracurriculars.
“They were playing for a lot over there, too, so they were chippy,” Hendrickson said. “We were playing for a lot, too. And when guys are playing for a lot, tempers get high and a lot of things get said, and some people take it a little personal.”
John Harbaugh Said Ravens Clearly “Played a Clean Game”
The Ravens head coach took expectation and refuted the notion that his players conducted themselves in an unsafe and unsavory manner on the field in Week 18 during his Monday press conference on January 9, 2022.
“I studied the game really closely, obviously,” Harbaugh said. “And it’s clear our players played a clean game. As they always do. Millions of fans watched the game as well and they saw the same thing so I’d just say let them be the judges.”
The AFC North is fondly referred to as the black and blue division because the four teams within it love to play against and beat up on each other. After the game, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor admitted that he didn’t expect a cakewalk and also wasn’t surprised with how physical it turned out to be.
“(That’s) AFC North football,” Taylor said. “Show me a pretty game that anybody’s won in this division yet, and that’ll be the first one I’ve seen.”
Ravens six-time Pro Bowl defensive end, Calais Campbell echoed similar sentiments in his postgame interview as well.
“It’s playoff football,” Campbell said on January 8, 2022. “Against a division opponent, this is kind of like a preview of what it’s going to be like next week. The chippiness – that’s division games.”
Ravens Wildcard Details Announced
Not only will the team be heading back to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals on Super Wildcard Weekend but they will be doing so on NBC’s Sunday Night Football for the second time this season. The NFL announced the schedule for the opening round of the 2022 playoffs and the two AFC North rivals will be in the primetime slot of a triple-header on Sunday, January 8, 2022.
The first meeting of the season between the Ravens and Bengals was played on Sunday Night Football back in Week 5 in Baltimore and resulted in a 19-17 win for the home team. Starting quarterback Lamar Jackson led a 7-play drive that covered 50 yards and set up Justin Tucker for a 43-yard game-winning field goal.
This will mark the Ravens’ third time in total that they will be playing a nationally televised game broadcasted by NBC and the second time in the last three weeks as they suffered a 16-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17. Hopefully, they’ll have Jackson back in the lineup for their third matchup with the Bengals and third time on SNF.