Winning is rush for Ravens Holmes runs for 227 as line makes stand to bring satisfied smiles Top total in league this year R. Lewis pays dividend on new deal with 2 INTs

Ravens 20, Bengals 13

November 23, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

CINCINNATI -- For the first time this season, there actually were jokes being told in the Ravens' locker room after a game.

Team vice president David Modell was going around shaking hands, reserve Ben Cavil was bragging about how well his fellow offensive linemen played, and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa had become a comedian.

"I finally found out what's the matter with this football team. We need to give everybody a $7 million signing bonus and then we can all play like Ray," said a laughing Siragusa, alluding to the $26 million contract signed by Ray Lewis last week.

Playing the Cincinnati Bengals can make teams giddy, especially when a maligned offensive line finally shows some signs of life and creates enough holes for Priest Holmes to rush for a league high this season of 227 yards on 36 attempts.

Or when rookie cornerback Duane Starks doesn't give up a big play for the first time in three weeks and the defense holds the Bengals to 58 yards rushing. Or when the newly crowned highest-paid middle linebacker in the NFL, Lewis, comes up big with two interceptions.

The Ravens may have only beaten the lowly Bengals, 20-13, yesterday before an announced crowd of 52,571 at Cinergy Field, but after losing five of the previous six games, it was time to celebrate.

"Just take a look around the locker room," Starks said. "Look at the faces. Man, this makes it a fun ride back home. If we can play like this the rest of the year, we'll win our share of games."

Coach Ted Marchibroda said, "It was a fine win for us today. We played good football. We didn't give the thing away, didn't make as many mistakes as we have in the past. I think our football team -- it may be a little late, but I hope not -- is coming together. I told one of our coaches before the game that we were ready to play today. I saw a seriousness, a quietness. That's an awfully good sign."

This was the kind of offense the Ravens (4-7) wanted to run at the outset of the season. They wanted to pound the ball behind the offensive line and let quarterback Jim Harbaugh throw short- to intermediate-range passes.

Holmes, the second-year running back who rushed for 173 yards in his first start against the Bengals (2-9) earlier this year, then ran through the league's worst rushing defense and into the record books yesterday.

When the Ravens needed a drive to seal the win at the end of the game with the ball at their 5 with 8: 27 left and the team protecting a 20-13 lead, they ran off 16 plays, including 11 rushes from Holmes, who had 53 yards to help run out the clock.

The Ravens seldom needed to use Harbaugh, who completed nine of 18 passes for 92 yards. Holmes' single-game total was the most ever by a Baltimore running back. The previous best was 198 set in 1971 by the Colts' Norm Bulaich against the New York Jets. It also was the most ever gained against the Bengals

"He has our number," defensive lineman Michael Bankston said. "In some way or some fashion, he has our number. We've played a lot of great backs. We're making him a great back."

"I don't know what it is," Holmes said of his 6.3-yard per carry average in his 400 yards against the Bengals this season. "My line played exceptional today and also Eric Green [tight end] and Roosevelt Potts [fullback]. I knew we would play a very good game because we were focused this week. We all came as one and were ready to play."

Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden went to Marchibroda early last week and asked him to stay with the rushing attack against the Bengals. And why shouldn't he? Cincinnati was allowing 167.1 yards a game on the ground. The Ravens pushed the Bengals around even with James Atkins making his first start of the year at left guard.

Maybe the Ravens should have pushed the No. 1 defense of the Chargers around like that a week ago.

"It's something we always wanted to do," said right guard Jeff Blackshear. "Against San Diego, we only ran the ball like 10 times and then we spent the rest of the day pass blocking. We just like to roll people. Then when you have a drive like we did in the fourth period, that's when you feel good."

The Ravens had a 17-3 lead at the half. They scored on their second possession of the game as Holmes ran 56 yards down to the Bengals' 16 on a counter-trey play to the right behind Atkins and Ogden. One play after a Holmes run netted 4 yards, Harbaugh threw a 12-yard touchdown pass over the middle to fullback Potts, and the Ravens took a 7-0 lead with 9: 34 left in the first quarter.

Cincinnati went from its 24 down to the Ravens' 26 on the en- suing series, but cornerback DeRon Jenkins deflected a Paul Justin pass intended for receiver Damon Gibson at the 22, and Lewis caught the deflection for an interception that stopped the drive.

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