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The Cincinnati Bengals are oneof the AFC’s surprise teams, launching themselves into a win-and-in playoff scenario on Sunday after going 4-12 last year.
But Head Coach Marvin Lewis has some concerns that the Ravens capitalized on in their last meeting, and may be able to do again.
The Bengals have been turnover and penalty prone, even during their two straight wins that have kept them in the postseason race.
“We just had some things mentally that we made some critical errors on,” Lewis said on Monday following the Bengals’ narrow 23-16 win over Arizona.
“Both phases needed to tighten it down a little bit.”
Over the past four games – including wins over Arizona and St. Louis and losses to Houston and Pittsburgh – the Bengals have averaged two turnovers a game.
Running back Cedric Benson has fumbled five times in the past two contests alone. His five total fumbles are second-most among running backs in the NFL behind Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew.
“You can’t put the ball on the ground five times in that many attempts at any point, really,” Lewis said. “That’s a season’s worth.”
In the first installment of Ravens-Bengals on Nov. 20, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton threw three interceptions. Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb and safety Ed Reed each got their hands on one.
On two of those turnovers – the Smith and Webb interceptions – the Ravens offense scored on the very next play. That’s what helped the Ravens build a 17-point fourth quarter lead before the Bengals came charging back.
But it wasn’t the turnovers that Lewis remembered from the earlier meeting. It was the penalties.
The Bengals committed six for 43 yards, which is actually on the lower end for them. They have averaged 7.5 over their last four games and had two games in double digits.
Cincinnati is tied for 12th in the league in penalties with 116 called. The Ravens are tied for 27th with 94.
Emotions will be running high in Cincinnati with the Bengals battling for a postseason berth and the Ravens looking for a first-round bye and home playoff game. Controlling the nerves and energy will be key for both teams.
“The thing that we can’t have are the penalties we had in that game,” Lewis said. “We had some pre-snap penalties and some things in that game that really caused us an issue. That’s the thing going in this week: We’ve got to have crispness about us.”