BALTIMORE —An uncharacteristic performance by the Baltimore Ravens defense was offset by an uncommonly effective outing by Joe Flacco and the team’s oft-criticized offense.
Flacco threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns, rookie Torrey Smith had six catches for 165 yards, and Baltimore moved into first place in the AFC North with a tense 31-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Playing without middle linebacker Ray Lewis for the first time in 58 games, the Ravens (7-3) nearly blew a 17-point lead in the final 14 minutes, yielded 483 yards and let rookie quarterback Andy Dalton throw for 373.
But Baltimore got 104 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Ray Rice, and the defense made big plays when it counted most. After Rice was stuffed on a third-and-1 with just over two minutes left, he remained confident.
“I just looked at the clock and I said, ‘Our defense will get it done,’” he recalled. “That’s the faith I have in our guys.”
Lewis was sideline after being placed on the inactive list with a toe injury.
Down 31-24, Cincinnati reached the Baltimore 7 before Terrell Suggs collared Dalton, who was called for intentional grounding. On fourth-and-goal, Dalton was sacked by Pernell McPhee.
Baltimore is locked in a first-place tie with Pittsburgh in the AFC North, but the Ravens own the tiebreaker by virtue of their two wins over the Steelers.
Cincinnati (6-4) was without standout rookie wide receiver and former Georgia star A.J. Green, who hurt his right knee a week earlier in a loss to Pittsburgh.