CINCINNATI (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens’ blitzing defense gave Tom Brady problems, picking him off once, sacking him twice and hitting him 10 times. Their next challenge will be as different as a Super Bowl MVP and a raw rookie.
The AFC North leaders get to face a winless team starting a quarterback who’s never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game.
Ryan Finley knows it won’t be easy.
The Ravens (6-2) pestered Brady enough to forge a 37-20 win last weekend . Now comes a fourth-round pick making his debut for a Cincinnati team that’s already looking to next year and is willing to turn the most important position over to someone who hasn’t even worked with the starters until this week. And top receiver A.J. Green is expected to miss another game in his recovery from ankle surgery.
Still, Finley is looking forward to it.
“It’s been fun,” Finley said. “It reminds me of getting ready for a game back in college.”
The fun ends when the Bengals (0-8) meet a team that was more than their match last month. The Ravens held the ball for nearly 40 minutes in a 23-17 victory when Andy Dalton led the offense. The ninth-year veteran was benched during Cincinnati’s bye week by coach Zac Taylor so that the Bengals can find out whether Finley is their future or if they need to start looking at a quarterback in the first round of the draft.
Dalton went 8-8 against the Ravens with 21 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. It’ll be strange for both teams to continue the rivalry with him watching from the sideline .
“That is going to be pretty crazy,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “I’ve been playing against him (since 2011). We got drafted in the same class. He was my first interception. It is going to be strange because obviously, our careers have kind of been mirrored.”
Baltimore has won four in a row overall to take control of the division, leading Pittsburgh by two games. A victory Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium would give the Ravens their first series sweep of Cincinnati since 2011 and their longest winning streak since 2010, when they took the last four in the regular season and beat Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Pittsburgh.
Knocking off the previously unbeaten Patriots last Sunday left them in a good place overall.
“Everyone is feeling good right now, and everyone is happy, and everyone’s emotions are high,” tight end Nick Boyle said.
STOP JACKSON, PART II
The Ravens piled up a season-high 269 yards rushing in their win last month over the Bengals, who have by far the league’s worst run defense. Lamar Jackson led the way with a career-high 152 yards rushing, joining Colin Kaepernick as the only NFL players to throw for 200 and run for 150 in a game. The Bengals had several players responsible for tracking him on plays, but he got away anyway.
“We have a lot of heart over here, a lot of confidence, and we’re here to win,” Jackson said.
When they played the Bengals last month, the Ravens lacked deep threat Marquise Brown, who missed two games with a high ankle sprain. He returned last week and had three catches for 48 yards. Though not fully healthy, he is looking to make an impact.
“(Teammates) know I’m not 100, but they’re like, ‘When you’re out there, you’re going to make plays,’” Brown said. “I just keep that in my head.”
Boyle’s first NFL touchdown came last week on a 5-yard pass from Jackson. All it took was 56 games over five years, on his 91st career catch. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound tight end got a three-year extension in March because of his blocking ability, and his first TD was a thrill.
“It was almost like I got drafted with how many text messages I was getting once I scored a touchdown,” Boyle said. “But it was cool to see how many people were watching the game and rooting for me.”
GET HIM THE BALL
Dalton had to provide most of the offense because Cincinnati has the league’s worst running attack. Dalton has all of Cincinnati’s three rushing touchdowns. Joe Mixon has repeatedly been hit in the backfield and has only 320 yards on 101 carries. Mixon has three touchdown catches, and he’d like to get the ball more to take some of the pressure off Finley.
“It definitely is frustrating I don’t get the ball, but I’m sure, at the end of the day — at least I hope — they’ll understand you’ve got to get the rock to me,” Mixon said. “That’s just what it is.”