Through the Years: Bengals-Ravens Rivalry

In honor of Week 5’s match-up between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens, NZI’s Bengals writer Parker Watson takes a special look at the history of the Bengals-Ravens rivalry.

For many years, the AFC North stood firm as the toughest division in all of professional football.

Every divisional game was guaranteed to be a blood bath. You were certain to see some Madden-like “hit sticks,” a lot of trash talk, and tightly-contested scores from kickoff to the final whistle. From the legendary celebrations to the nail-biting finishes, some of your best (or worst) childhood memories as a fan, have probably come from this rivalry.

Although the division has lost some of its luster in recent years, there is no doubt that these AFC North brawls still bring the same level of competition and intensity.

One of the divisional match-ups that’s always been highly competitive is between the Cincinnati Bengals, and the team their fans love to abhor, the Baltimore Ravens.

Throughout recent history, the contests between the Bengals and the Ravens have consisted of several classics. Here, we will jump into the time machine, and take a look back at some of the most memorable and significant moments in Bengals-Ravens history — moments that shaped each meeting between the two teams into one of the most entertaining and appreciable rivalries in the NFL.

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Unquestionably one of the biggest wins in Bengals franchise history.

Having scored a whopping 58 points against the Cleveland Browns just a week prior, Cincinnati was only able to put three points on the board through three quarters of play.

Down 20-3 in the 4th, quarterback Carson Palmer went into the phone booth and turned into Superman. He would go on to pass for 200 yards (382 total) along with three touchdowns, as the Bengals scored 24 points in the fourth quarter. Both franchise-great receivers Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh topped 160+ receiving yards on the day.

This game would mark Cincy’s first win on the road over a team with a winning record in 14 years. It was the second-largest, come-from-behind win on the road for the franchise, too, since their 18-point rally against — you guessed it — the Ravens in ’96.

What makes the comeback all the more sweeter is that it took place in Baltimore, while also ending the Ravens’ hopes of repeating as division champions.

(Photo Credit: David Kohl for AP Photos)


A Monday night season-opener, this was a very gritty win for a Cincinnati riddled with injuries.

The Bengals were left without three starters on the offensive line by the second quarter, including franchise-great Willie Anderson, as well as momentarily losing their kicker, Shayne Graham.

The Ravens seemed to had placed themselves in the driver’s seat with momentum after Baltimore safety Ed Reed returned a punt 63 yards for a score, giving them a 20-19 fourth-quarter lead.

However, Carson Palmer would throw the go-ahead TD and convert the two-point attempt to give them a 27-20 lead that they’d never relinquish.

Ravens QB Kyle Boller did attempt a rally, though, driving the team all the way up to the 1-yard line. But, a costly penalty followed by an interception off a tipped pass, thwarted any hope of a Ravens comeback.

Of all the highs and lows in this game, the most memorable moment has to be Chad Johnson’s touchdown celebration. Famously known for his post-TD antics, Johnson scored early in the contest and gave the football world a classic moment: in true “Ochocinco” fashion, Johnson went over to his team’s sideline and threw on a faux Hall-of-Fame blazer that read “Future H.O.F 20??” on the back.

This was a clever reference to his campaign for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as Chad just being Chad; the player who doubled as one of the league’s best entertainers on Sundays.

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TYLER BOYD, WEEK 17 (DEC. 31, 2017)

That’s it.

That’s literally all you have to see or hear to know exactly what those four words represent.

This game will certainly stick in the memory of EVERY Bengals and Ravens fan alike, for better or worse.

On top of it being yet another classic, street fight-style AFC North match-up — as well as the regular season finale — this game was a thriller that left every viewing football fan on the edge of their seats.

What further raised the stakes was the fact that Baltimore had to win in order to reach the post-season. Oh, how sweet would it be for Cincinnati to be the ones to do the honor of eliminating them, right?

Baltimore hadn’t made the playoffs in the previous two seasons. There was a lot of speculation as to whether Coach John Harbaugh was on the hot seat or not, placing even more importance on a postseason berth.

The Bengals entered the game with a 6-9 record and were pegged as the underdogs with the Ravens sitting at 9-6 and playing at home. Cincy seemed to be in control for most of the game. A late first-half Ravens score brought them within one possession, even though they were badly losing the yardage battle (268 to 61) and had 14 (!) fewer first downs.

QB Joe Flacco, with another one of his signature second-half rallies, put Baltimore ahead by three after a short TD toss to WR Mike Wallace. Nevertheless, this was a game that you just felt had the word “upset” written all over it, even from the start. Ultimately, QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals would crush the collective souls of the city of Baltimore, when he threw the game-winning TD to WR Tyler Boyd in the final minute of regulation. It was a magical play, that occurred on 4th-and-12, aided by some bad tackling to clear the way for the score. A packed and typically loud stadium was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. The lasting image that will be ingrained in every Bengals and Ravens fans’ head, is the shot of Boyd running free into the end zone with his arms up in celebration.

If you’re a Ravens fan, the final Cincinnati drive was like watching American Sniper all the way through the end. Such great entertainment, only to be utterly grief-stricken and disappointed at the end. For Bengals fans, the joy and glee probably never felt better.

What a way to bring in the New Year.

So many classic games, so many legendary moments, so much competitiveness. That’s what the battles between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are about. That’s what the AFC North is all about.

As long as these two teams share a division, rest assured, there will be more moments like these to come.

(Featured Image Credit: Cincinnati Bengals)

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