By sticking to run, Ravens able to stick it to Bengals RAVENS 20, BENGALS 13

From The Sidelines

November 23, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

CINCINNATI -- The lame-duck Ravens did some quacking yesterday.

Because coach Ted Marchibroda and his staff figure to be victims of a third straight losing season, the players who want to return need to leave a calling card when the next coach evaluates them.

The Ravens left some positive impressions with a 20-13 victory over the Bengals that boosted their record to 4-7 and cost the next coach field position in the draft. They're now ahead of the seven teams that have three or fewer victories.

The players showed they can run the ball when they stick with it -- especially against the Bengals.

A week ago, they basically gave up on the run after Priest Holmes was held to 2 yards on the first carry. Granted, San Diego is the best team in the league against the run and the Bengals are the worst, but a team needs to give the running backs more than the 10 carries they got last week.

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden even went to coach Ted Marchibroda with the message Monday that the team needs to run more, and the coach got it.

This time, Holmes was held to 3 yards on his first two runs. On their second series, the Ravens passed on the first play. But on second-and-nine, which is often a passing play, they gave it to Holmes on a counter play with Ogden and James Atkins pulling to their right to open a huge hole.

Holmes went 56 yards and was on his way to a 227-yard game after getting 173 yards against the Bengals in the first game.

"It opened up like the Red Sea," Holmes said of the long run. "You can pretty much close your eyes and run through that hole. It was wide-open."

The defense held the opponent to 14 or fewer points for the third straight game and didn't let quarterback Paul Justin become another Rob Johnson -- a backup who turns in a big game.

Of course, the Ravens, being the Ravens, still made too many mistakes. Leading 17-3 at halftime, they turned the ball over two straight times and let the Bengals get within 17-13.

But they got a field goal and then protected that lead with a drive from their own 5 that took the final 8: 27 off the clock to end the game.

Ogden said: "When a team knows you're going to try to run the ball at them and they still can't stop you, that's just great stuff. You can't write a better script than that."

Highlights and lowlights of a game that showed the Ravens need to play the Bengals more often.

Turning point: Trailing 17-3 at halftime, the Bengals had cut the deficit to 17-13 late in the third quarter when Ray Lewis intercepted a third-down Justin pass and returned it to the Cincinnati 9 to set up the field goal that gave the Ravens a touchdown cushion.

The star: Three weeks ago, at a players-only meeting before the Oakland game, Holmes challenged the offensive line to step up its play. Now, he's going to take the linemen out to dinner. They've won two of three since then, and he rushed for 99 against the Raiders before getting 227 yesterday -- the best day ever for a Baltimore pro football player -- and he and the linemen are on the same page. Holmes said: "The most beautiful thing that I heard the last week was when I only ran the ball six times. They said: 'Man, we've got to get you some yards.' I am learning on the run. I do make mistakes, but I put my heart into it, and I'm ready to play."

The $26 million man: Lewis, who got a $7 million signing bonus last week in a $26 million deal, intercepted two passes. Lewis said he's more relaxed now that he has the big money, but it won't change his play on the field.

Harbaugh file: Harbaugh's numbers weren't impressive (9-for-18

for 92 yards and an interception) and he jokingly said, "I played my usual ugly game." But he made a critical third-down pass that started the last drive. Harbaugh said: "I couldn't be happier about the last drive. That was as good as a 400-yard game and three TDs. To not give them a chance to get the ball back, especially coming off the 5, that was a thing of beauty."

Red zone results: The Ravens scored touchdowns in two of three trips to the red zone in the first half after getting just five touchdowns in 18 trips in the first 10 games. On their first trip, they got a touchdown when Roosevelt Potts caught a 12-yard pass on a second-and-six, as the Bengals gambled with the blitz, failed to get to Harbaugh and left Potts wide-open. They reverted to form on their second trip early in the second quarter, when they had a first down on the Bengals' 11 and settled for a Matt Stover field goal.

On their third trip, they spurned a field goal on fourth down at the 1, and Holmes went over the top for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, they were ready to go for it again from a foot out, but Kenyon Cotton was called for a false start and the Ravens settled for another field goal.

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