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OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens have more to worry about than just moving forward without Ray Rice.
Rice, the second-leading rusher in franchise history, was cut Monday after a video released by TMZ Sports showed the suspended running back hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator last February.
Hours after declining comment, the Ravens terminated Rice's contract.
The move came around 24 hours after a slew of dropped passes and missed tackles, two turnovers and not a single sack added up to a 23-16 home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Many of the flaws that plagued Baltimore in 2013 — an inconsistent running game, poor quarterback protection, bad clock management and a fourth-quarter collapse by the defense — were on full display Sunday.
"We had a chance to control the football game," coach John Harbaugh said. "We very easily could have done it by doing some things right."
Fortunately for Baltimore, there are 15 games left in the NFL season. The next one is Thursday night — against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Harbaugh must decide in the days ahead whether to start Bernard Pierce or Justin Forsett in place of Rice, whose two-game suspension was extended indefinitely by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday.
Pierce ran for 14 yards against the Bengals before losing a fumble that caused him to be exiled to the sideline. Forsett took over and finished with 70 yards and a score.
"This game is done. It's shaken off. On to next week," Pierce said, echoing the sentiment of his teammates.
The game film will be difficult to watch. Joe Flacco was sacked three times, threw an interception and was betrayed by his receivers, who often failed to find the handle on some decent tosses.
Jacoby Jones and Steve Smith were the main culprits. Although Smith's 80-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was truly a thing of beauty, he couldn't help but shake his head over the mishandled throws.
"We dropped all the gimmies, but we caught all the hard ones," Smith said. "We've just got to play better, but things can happen and you've got to take responsibility. This receiver group has a lot of opportunities to be great, and I think we overthought things and ran before we had the ball. We've just got to play better."
The same applies to Flacco, whose decision-making on the final play of the first half was bewildering. The Ravens were in easy field goal range with 8 seconds left when Flacco danced in the pocket, rolled to his right and was sacked as time expired.
"That was probably the stupidest play I've ever made in football," he said. "I kind of just got caught up in the play and forgot about the situation. There's no excuse for it. Can't happen."
Oh but it did, and now the Ravens must beat Pittsburgh or go 0-2 in the division with two defeats at home.
"We have to clean it up and just get better," wide receiver Torrey Smith said.
The defense played well enough without starting cornerback Lardarius Webb, who missed the game because of a back injury but hopes to return Thursday. Chykie Brown proved to be an adequate replacement until A.J. Green beat him for a 77-yard score with 4:58 to go.
It conjured memories of last season, when the Ravens yielded 134 fourth-quarter points and finished 8-8, missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.
"I don't even want to talk about last year," linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
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