Performances can be tough to grade when both teams elect to rest their starters.
And that's what happened in Cincinnati's 23-17 win over Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. Both teams decided to sit their starters to a degree, whether it was pulling Ravens QB Joe Flaccoout after two series or Bengals QB Andy Dalton after a half.
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The move was for the best, especially in hindsight, considering New England blew out Miami, which would have kept the Ravens at the No. 4 seed even with a win over the Bengals. Therefore, the game had no meaning as far as the playoffs were determined, with Baltimore now ready to prepare for Indianapolis in the first round.
The Ravens were got plenty of youngsters into the game, including second-year backup QB Tyrod Taylor. In doing so, it gave guys a chance for added football action when they otherwise wouldn't see it. And if there's any consolation to take away from a game like Sunday's, that would be it.
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Even with the backups in, the Ravens showed they can run the ball with plenty of versatility. With Taylor in the game, there was an added dimension when passing plays broke down, or when Taylor (nine carries, 65 yards, TD) saw a crease after the initial read wasn't open. The Ravens have found a gem in RB Bernard Pierce, as the rookie ran for 89 yards on 22 carries while splitting time. Third-string RB Anthony Allen had a nice day, totaling 10 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. However, Taylor will need to improve on reading his progressions as he relied heavily on tucking and run. In addition, the Ravens will need to learn more about the read option as Taylor handled those plays more like play fakes instead of putting the ball into the belly of the back and pulling it based on his read. Previous game's grade: A
The defense pulled Ed Reed early and did not start Haloti Ngata or Terrell Suggs. Yet, it only gave up one touchdown, an 11-yard pass to Bengals WR Marvin Jones at the end of the first half. In Cincinnati's other scoring opportunities, the defense buckled down and limited the Bengals to field goal opportunities. Baltimore's defense has some much-needed momentum heading into the playoffs after executing well in two consecutive games, even with the Bengals game practically meaningless. Previous game's grade: A
Special teams: B
Justin Tucker set an NFL rookie record of converting 90.9 percent of his regular-season kicks after making one of two tries on Sunday. However, his miss eliminated him from breaking the Ravens' single-season record of 93.5 percent, set by Matt Stover in 2006. WR/RS Jacoby Jones didn't have much room in the return game but did have a long of 30 on a kickof. P Sam Koch's average (36 yards per punt) wasn't up to par thanks to the cold weather. But Koch ran for a first down on a fake punt after his passing options weren't open. Funny enough, Koch now had two carries for 17 yards and a touchdown. His average of 8.5 yards per carry was tops on the team this season. Previous game's grade: A-
If New England would have lost to Miami, then there might've been room for a debate as to whether Baltimore should've rested its starters. But even coach John Harbaugh knew it was unlikely for the Patriots to lose, so the Ravens were going to be stuck with the fourth seed, regardless of the outcome at Paul Brown Stadium. Previous game's grade: A
Follow Ravens reporter Jason Butt on Twitter @CBSRavens and @JasonButtCBS.