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Head coach Marvin Lewis fired the defensive coordinator
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Bengals players talked about their trip to Baltimore as a pivotal moment in the season , almost a last-stand opportunity. They wound up getting run over.Now what?A 24-21 loss in Baltimore on Sunday dropped the Bengals (5-5) three games behind Pittsburgh in the loss column for the AFC North lead with only six weeks left in the season. Their fourth loss in five games put them in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the third straight season.A shakeup of the coaching staff didn't make enough of a difference. Cincinnati is relegated to hoping that some of its injured players return and salvage a season that's gone from promising to unsettling."Everyone is frustrated," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Monday. "Everyone's nerves are a little frayed right now. Everyone is searching."Lewis decided to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after the Bengals gave up 500 yards for the third straight game, a first in the Super Bowl era. He took over the coordinator's duties and hired fired Browns head coach Hue Jackson to help on the sidelines during games.It didn't go well in Baltimore.The Bengals ended that streak of 500-yard games, holding the Ravens to 403, but they were on the wrong end of more defensive history.Cincinnati allowed 265 yards rushing, the most during Lewis' 16 seasons as head coach. They've given up more than 200 yards rushing in back-to-back games 鈥?the Saints ran for 244 鈥?and three times overall this season, also the most under Lewis.Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 117 yards in his first start, and rookie Gus Edwards ran for 115 and a touchdown. They're the first set of rookie quarterback and running back teammates to run for at least 100 yards in the same game in NFL history."You give up 200 yards rushing, I'm not going to be happy with that," Lewis said.Lewis was satisfied with how his first game on the sideline unfolded , although he felt "somewhat a little handicapped" by having so many responsibilities."Hopefully it will become more and more comfortable," Lewis said.Part of the reason for Austin's firing was the confusion on defense, which repeatedly had coverage breakdowns. The Bengals had a different type of challenge on Sunday with a rookie quarterback who ran a lot.Lewis simplified the game plan, but the defense still struggled against the run."He made us play fast," cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. "He put us in situations where we didn't have to do a whole lot of thinking."The Bengals were in control of the division after a 4-1 start. Now they're trying to make up a lot of ground on the Steelers, who won at Paul Brown Stadium to start Cincinnati's free fall.They're one of five teams at 5-5 in contention for the second wild card spot. The Chargers have the edge for the first wild card at 7-3. The Bengals host the Browns (3-6-1) on Sunday."It's a race now, and that's what we're here for," Lewis said after the game. "That's the thing: Now it's a race to the finish."A race they once led, but that's now getting away from them.BURFICT BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHTLinebacker Vontaze Burfict played with a sore hip that sidelined him the previous week. He was on the field for 36 of 79 plays, showing the effects of the injury 鈥?he had only four tackles. He also was involved in an altercation with guard Marshal Yanda after a play , part of a scrum on the ground involving several players. The officials didn't penalize anyone. Lewis said on Monday that the coaches' film doesn't show what happened in the altercation.Five players the Ravens can trade after the preseason In late July, I wrote an article suggesting three players the Ravens could trade following the preseason. With one game remaining, Baltimore’s roster outlook has changed significantly. Several of the burning questions surrounding the team have been answered, which has given the coaching staff more clarity. Below are five potential trade options for the Ravens. 1. QB Robert Griffin IIICompetent backup quarterbacks are a necessity in the NFL, and Griffin III has put together enough impressive performances that could make him worth acquiring. The Seattle Seahawks traded a sixth-round pick for Brett Hundley on Wednesday morning, but there are still several other teams with a need at backup quarterback. He has shown that his arm is still lively, while also staying healthy. Griffin III would be a significant upgrade for several teams at the backup quarterback position.Compensation: Sixth-round pick2. DE Bronson Kaufusi/Carl DavisKaufusi and Davis are grouped together because the reasoning and compensation for both players would be similar. The Ravens are loaded along the defensive line, and neither player has a high chance to make the roster. With Patrick Ricard and Zach Sieler emerging, Davis and Kaufusi have become dispensable. Davis has struggled to make much of an impact since being drafted in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He appeared in 13 games his rookie season yet only made three starts. Davis has only recorded a half of a sack and three pass deflections throughout his entire NFL career. He was placed on the injured reserve in 2016 with an ankle injury, and the following season was far from ideal as he only played 301 defensive snaps , which was approximately 27.54% of plays, per pro-football-reference.Kaufusi has flashed throughout the preseason, but he has still failed to develop into the player Baltimore had hoped. Some of his production has come from the edge, which is a position the Ravens are loaded with talent. His athleticism is enticing, but it may be time for Baltimore to move on. Compensation: Seventh-round pick3. LB Za’Darius Smith Smith is a talented edge-rusher, and he will generate plenty of interest from several teams. However, the Ravens would need to get great compensation for him because if they kept him for the final year of his contract and he signs elsewhere in the offseason, they would likely receive a high compensatory selection. Given the emergence of Tim Williams, Smith is a luxury. If a team offers a fourth or fifth-round selection, the Ravens should pounce on that deal.Compensation: Fifth-round pick4. TE Maxx Williams The tight end room took a hit when Hayden Hurst suffered a stress fracture in his foot that required surgery. He was emerging as the starting tight end and was poised to make a significant impact. With Mark Andrews struggling in the preseason and Nick Boyle’s lack of ability to contribute in the passing game , Baltimore desperately needs another tight end that can create mismatches. Williams has not been that player since being drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but several other tight end needy teams could make an offer for him. The Ravens need to keep a fourth tight end, and it would be a risky decision, but they could rely on Darren Waller, who has proven in a small sample size that he can make an impact in the passing game. The safe decision is to keep Williams on the 53-man roster and stash Waller on the practice squad, but Baltimore could take a chance that has the potential to pay dividends. Compensation: Sixth-round pick