Sunday, September 26, 2004
Bengals can't give up ground
Defense must stop Ravens' all-pro running back
By Mark Curnutte
Enquirer staff writer
The Bengals have defeated Baltimore just once in six games with Jamal Lewis at running back for the Ravens.
The Bengals have won six of their past seven games at home, a run that started with a 34-26 win against the Ravens on Oct. 19, 2003. That loss started Baltimore on a 1-5 stretch away from home.
Today's game is the fifth consecutive home sellout for the Bengals, who have sold out the first six games of the 2004 season.
The Ravens fumbled seven times, losing three, in two games against the Bengals last season. The Bengals lost three of their five fumbles against Baltimore.
Number of normal starters who will be out today for the Ravens because of injury; the Bengals will be without three starters.
The Ravens' defense shut out the Bengals once in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The Bengals lost three shutouts in both 2000 and 2001. But since losing 16-0 at Baltimore on Dec. 23, 2001, the Bengals have scored in 36 consecutive games.
Two in a row?
The Bengals last week won for the first time since Nov. 6, 1994, without scoring an offensive touchdown. Brian Simmons' interception return and three Shayne Graham field goals were enough to beat Miami 16-13. There's a possibility the Bengals could win today against the Ravens without benefit of an offensive touchdown.
In the five years he has been Baltimore's coach, Brian Billick has started six quarterbacks against the Bengals:
1. Tony Banks, 1999 (2 starts) and 2000 (1)
2. Trent Dilfer, 2000 (1)
3. Elvis Grbac, 2001 (2)
4. Jeff Blake, 2002 (2)
5. Kyle Boller, 2003 (1)
6. Anthony Wright, 2003 (1)
Warrick against the Ravens
In eight career games against Baltimore, Peter Warrick has 32 receptions for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Last season at Baltimore, Warrick had a career-high 11 catches for 90 yards and one touchdown. He had a rushing touchdown against the Ravens as a rookie when he ran 4 yards after lining up under center with QB Akili Smith split out as a receiver.
Checking in with Ray
Linebacker Ray Lewis has recorded 119 tackles in 13 games against the Bengals, an average of nine. Lewis needs one more interception to become the franchise's all-time leader. He is tied with Rod Woodson and Duane Starks with 20.
The Bengals on Saturday signed fullback James Lynch to their practice squad. He had been released Thursday to make room for defensive end Elton Patterson on the 53-man roster.
The Ravens hold an 11-5 series edge over the Bengals.
The series is tied at four in Cincinnati and at two at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals won three of the first four games after the original Browns moved to Baltimore at the start of the 1996 season.
The Ravens have won 10 of the last 12 meetings.
The teams split the divisional series in 2001 and 2003.
Coach Marvin Lewis, the former Baltimore defensive coordinator, won his first game against the Ravens on Oct. 19, 2003.
Billick is 8-2 against the Bengals.
The lone victory was Oct. 19, 2003, and the Bengals played with a four-linebacker defensive alignment in a 34-26 victory.
Lewis ran for 101 yards, but the number was the lowest in any of the six games and represented his fifth-lowest total of the season.
The Bengals went with a traditional three-linebacker, four-defensive back set in the rematch at Baltimore six weeks later, and Lewis ran 30 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-13 Ravens victory.
The fourth linebacker in October was 248-pound Dwayne Levels, who had three tackles but has been released.
The options today are 227-pound rookie Landon Johnson and 235-pound Marcus Wilkins, who wasn't claimed off waivers until Sept. 1 and might be suited better for special teams.
The Bengals always get a lot of Lewis when they play Baltimore, and they're likely to see even more of him today at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Ravens' top two receivers - tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Travis Taylor - are out with injuries. And the Ravens don't want to force second-year quarterback Kyle Boller to throw too often.
So it's a simple game plan for the Bengals defense - contain Lewis - but one that's difficult to execute.
"Jamal is the kind of running back where, if you let him get rolling and he puts his pads down, he can just rip your arms out of their sockets," Bengals linebacker Kevin Hardy said.
Bengals defensive players and coach Marvin Lewis were coy all week about how exactly to slow Jamal Lewis.
Asked how to stop Jamal Lewis, Marvin Lewis said, "Tackle him."
"We don't tell our secrets" is another line Marvin Lewis used all week.
Jamal Lewis, with a federal drug trial awaiting him in Atlanta in November, is not off to the start this year that he enjoyed in 2003.
By the time Week 3 rolled around last season, Lewis had set the NFL single-game rushing record with 295 yards against Cleveland. He had 364 yards toward the 2,066 he would gain en route to winning the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. His total is second for a single season behind Eric Dickerson's 2,105 in 1984.
This year, Lewis has run for just 119 yards and a 2.7-yard average. The Browns, who gave up 500 yards to Lewis in 2003, held him to 57 yards in the opener. But Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden was out of the lineup with an injury.
Lewis ran for just 62 yards last week against Pittsburgh. But backup Chester Taylor ran for a career-high 76 yards on nine carries. Overall, the Ravens had 172 rushing yards behind an offensive line whose five starters weigh an average of 339 pounds.
Asked this week by Ravens beat reporters if he were satisfied with his production, Lewis said: "Oh yeah, I'm taking pressure off the quarterback. Defenses are keying in on the run and on me. That gives (Boller) a chance to open things up and throw down the field. I'm not concerned with the big yards or the 150-, 200-yard game. We went out and got a real good win. So I have to be happy with it."
Even though he missed all of the 2001 season with a knee injury, Lewis needs just 124 rushing yards today to become the fifth youngest to reach 5,000. It will be his 51st NFL game.
Lewis' success is a harbinger of team success. The Ravens are 17-5 in the 22 regular-season games in which he rushed for 100 yards, and 2-0 in postseason games.
Ravens running back Jamal Lewis has had 100 yards rushing in each of his six career games against the Bengals.