Monday, November 11, 2002

Ravens 38, Bengals 27

Special teams, interceptions doom Bengals

BALTIMORE - In a wacky game filled with long returns and potential touchdowns gone awry, the Baltimore Ravens made enough big plays to bag their annual home win over the Bengals.

Baltimore's Lamont Brightful evades a diving tackle by Ligarius Jennings and outruns punter Nick Harris (8) on a 95-yard return for a TD.
(AP photo)
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Adalius Thomas returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown and rookie Lamont Brightful scored on a 95-yard punt return in Baltimore's 38-27 victory Sunday.

Cincinnati's Brandon Bennett ran a kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, the Bengals' first score in Baltimore since 1998. There were plenty more points to follow, but the Bengals (1-8) reverted to form after snapping a seven-game skid with a rout of expansion Houston last week.

The Bengals had four turnovers after making none last week. Jon Kitna threw three interceptions and Corey Dillon lost a fumble as the Bengals lost their sixth straight on the road against the Ravens.

"On the road, in order to win, you can't turn the ball over four times," said Kitna, who threw three interceptions. "It's disappointing. I wish I would have played a little bit better."

Adalius Thomas runs back an interception for a TD.
(AP photo)
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"They made a few bigger plays than we did, and we turned the ball over too many times," Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said. "We also got hit on the coverage teams a couple of times."

Kitna went 28-for-42 for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and Dillon ran for 102 yards.

Baltimore quarterback Jeff Blake went 16-for-24 for 183 yards and a touchdown against his former team. He had been 0-2 since taking over as the starter for the injured Chris Redman.

Brightful also returned a kickoff 54 yards to help the Ravens boost their lead to 24-14 at halftime.

Jamal Lewis ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns as the Ravens (4-5) snapped a two-game losing streak.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh strips the ball away from Ravens safety Ed Reed as Reed was running back an interception.
(AP photo)
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The Ravens won despite losing two fumbles, one of them on a bonehead play by rookie safety Ed Reed.

Reed missed a chance for his first NFL score when he foolishly held the ball out in a premature celebration and had it batted away at the end of a 46-yard interception return. T.J. Houshmandzadeh knocked the ball out of Reed's hand at the 8, and Peter Warrick recovered in the end zone for a touchback to keep the score 7-7.

"Like a kid in the candy store with no money. You see the candy but you just can't get it," Reed said sheepishly. "I won't make the same mistake twice.

"I'm already getting it from my teammates," Reed said, "but I made up for it."

Reed later picked off Kitna's pass to set up Lewis' second touchdown, a 3-yard run that made it 38-20 with 6:14 remaining.

Early on, the Bengals stayed close. But Brightful's 54-yard kickoff return set up a field goal for a 17-14 lead with 2:59 left in the first half.

Jeff Blake went 16-for-24 for 183 yards and a TD against his former team.
(AP photo)
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Then, after the Ravens forced a punt, Brightful gathered the ball at his own 5, quickly sprinted to his left and sprinted untouched down the sideline.

"I saw the guys double-team the outside guy, and I saw Ed Reed coming back for the block," Brightful said. "I took it from there."

The Ravens weren't done. Chad Williams had an apparent fumble return for a touchdown in the final minute of the half, but the score was overruled by a replay.

It didn't matter, because Baltimore never let the margin slip below seven points in the second half.

The Ravens scored a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time this season, moving 76 yards in a drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Lewis.

The lead lasted for 13 seconds - the amount of time it took Bennett to pick up the bouncing kickoff, break past the wedge, cut left and sprint into the end zone.

"The guys blocked great. All I had to was run, because I didn't have to break any tackles or anything," Bennett said.

Minutes later, Reed provided his gaffe, which was sure to make all the blooper reels. But Thomas got it right, juggling Kitna's pass into the flat before grabbing hold and lumbering into the end zone to make it 14-7.

"You just run as fast as you can until you get into the end zone," Thomas said, then quickly added, "I just didn't want to stick the ball out."

Cincinnati pulled even when Kitna capped an 81-yard drive with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson, who had four receptions on the drive.

Johnson finished with seven catches for 110 yards.

Notes: Bengals DT Oliver Gibson tore his left Achilles' tendon, and CB Ligarius Jennings tore his left ACL. Both are expected to be lost for the season. ... Lewis became the Ravens' career rushing leader with 2,145 yards, passing Priest Holmes. ... Bennett's kickoff return for a touchdown was the first by Cincinnati since 1999. ... Baltimore improved to 2-3 this season without LB Ray Lewis, who missed a fifth straight game with a partially separated left shoulder.

Game statistics

Ravens 38, Bengals 27
Blake empathizes with former mates
Bengals' defense will need to step up once again
The Edge
Isolation booth: Johnson vs. Demps
Levi: Life as a Rookie
Bengals, Ravens stats
Bengals-Ravens by the numbers
NFL notebook, standings
Are you ready for some Monday Night Football history?
Curnutte's NFL power rankings

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