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Bengals retake AFC North lead with win over Ravens

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Even without star wideout A.J. Green, the Bengals scratched and clawed their way to the AFC North lead with a tight win over the rival Ravens. Here's what you need to know from Cincinnati's 27-24 victory over Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium:

1. On the latest podcast, we propped up Baltimore (5-3) as the class of the AFC North. Not so fast. The Bengals (4-2-1) on Sunday completed a season sweep of the Ravens with an imperfect but gritty triumph that boiled down to one big play: With 47 seconds left and the Ravens down 27-24, Joe Flacco appeared to fling an 80-yard touchdown strike to Steve Smith. The veteran wideout, though, was flagged for offensive pass interference, putting the would-be comeback on ice. 

2. The Bengals still miss A.J. Green, but the offense was better than last week. After just 135 total yards against the Colts, Andy Dalton and friends opened the game with an authoritative 80-yard touchdown march and pieced together three scoring drives in the second half. Dalton, though, appeared to hand the tilt away in the fourth when he lost the ball on a Haloti Ngata strip-sack that Daryl Smith took 39 yards to the Cincinnati 8. One play later, Lorenzo Taliaferro scored a go-ahead touchdown to put the Ravens up 21-20 with time ticking away. Little did we know 10 more points would be scored.

3. Two weeks removed from his 10-catch, 120-yard outburst against the Panthers, Mohamed Sanu put on another show with five catches for 125 yards off a team-leading nine targets. He showed off his moves with a 48-yard grab on Cincy's opening scoring march before helping to set up the team's second touchdown with a 26-yard end around. Nobody can replace Green, but Sanu has emerged as a legitimate playmaker.

4. Justin Forsett has been a revelation for Baltimore. On his fifth team in seven years, the Ravens running back came into Sunday as the league's fourth-leading rusher. Putting up a workmanlike 68 yards at four yards per clip, Forsett ran with power up the middle and displayed his speed around the edges. Throw in Taliaferro -- who piled up 69 total yards and two scores -- and this team doesn't miss Ray Rice.

5. Ravens cover man Jimmy Smith was carted off to the locker room with a sprained left foot and never returned. Dominique Franks held his own in relief, but losing Smith long-term would serve as a killer for Baltimore.

6. Keep an eye on Michael Campanaro. The seventh-round Ravens pass-catcher hauled in three passes for 40 yards and earned Flacco's trust by winning his share of one-on-one battles. Tight end Crockett Gillmore also helped patch over the loss of Owen Daniels with 23 yards off a pair of grabs.

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