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Bengals finish against Ravens who blanked them at the start

(AP Photo/Frank Victores)

By JOE KAY

AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) A false start on the first snap of the season.

Later, an incompletion, a sack and a punt.

The Bengals' first possession of 2017 was a preview of things to come for their offense.

Andy Dalton threw four interceptions and lost a fumble as Baltimore (9-6) had its way at Paul Brown Stadium in a 20-0 victory to open the season.

In many ways, it seems like a lifetime ago as the Bengals (6-9) get ready for the rematch.

"I don't remember playing them that first week - did we play them?" Dalton joked on Wednesday. "The turnovers decided the game. We didn't get much production, and the turnovers didn't help."

Dalton was only 16 of 31 for 170 yards with five sacks and a passer rating of 28.4, the second-lowest of his career.

The four interceptions matched his career high - he also was picked off four times by the Ravens in 2013. The Bengals managed only 221 yards.

Fourteen games and a new offensive coordinator later, the Bengals aren't much better heading into their season finale in Baltimore against the team that started them down their steep path.

Cincinnati fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after the second game of the season, but there's been little improvement overall.

Cincinnati ranks last in the league in offense, a shocking development for a unit that features Dalton, A.J. Green and a bevy of running backs.

The Bengals were outscored 67-14 in losses to the Bears and Vikings in early December, but rallied for a 26-17 win over the Lions last Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Ravens are in the hunt for a wild-card berth and can clinch a spot with a victory.

The Bengals had unfocused performances during the back-to-back drubbings against the Bears and Vikings, but gave a better showing while eliminating the Lions from playoff contention.

They've been playing with a depleted roster since a 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 4 essentially ended their season.

"Was it a Steelers hangover? Who knows?" safety George Iloka said. "Was it other things? Who knows? We were just playing out of character."

While the game doesn't mean anything to the Bengals' chances, it could mark a turning point in club history.

Coach Marvin Lewis is finishing his contract after 15 seasons in Cincinnati, the second-longest current tenure in the NFL behind New England's Bill Belichick.

Lewis and owner Mike Brown couldn't agree on terms of an extension after a six-win season in 2017. Brown said he'd see how the team fared this season before deciding Lewis' fate.

Lewis has denied a report that he'll reject any overtures to stay, but has been coy about his wishes.

"Oh, I'm not going to reflect if this is my last game or not," Lewis said Wednesday.

Players have seen nothing different in Lewis this week as he gets ready to visit Baltimore, where he first caught the Bengals' eye as coordinator of the Ravens' Super Bowl championship defense.

"He's handled it like he would handle any other game," Dalton said. "We haven't seen any change in him. He's still doing everything he can to get us ready and get us going."

BANGED UP

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (shoulder), running back Joe Mixon (ankle), left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (shoulder), cornerback William Jackson III (knee) and receiver/returner Alex Erickson (ankle) were held out of practice Wednesday. Running back Giovani Bernard was limited by an ankle injury.

BUBBLE UP

The Bengals practiced at the University of Cincinnati's covered field because of the extremely cold weather. They're the only northern NFL team without their own covered practice field.

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Updated December 27, 2017

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