Quiet Ravens dismiss roar from Bengals

Routed twice last fall, `snubbed' by Grbac, Cincy eyes revenge

`We'll talk to them Sunday'

Stopping Dillon key for Baltimore

Ravens Vs. Bengals

September 23, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

CINCINNATI - While the Cincinnati Bengals have cried out for revenge, the Ravens have responded with a yawn.

While the Bengals have shouted about vindication for two humiliating losses to their AFC Central superiors last year, along with the "snubbing" by Elvis Grbac during free agency, the Ravens have basically rolled their eyes.

In their first game back since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the Ravens (1-0) encounter the suddenly feisty Bengals (1-0) at Paul Brown Stadium at 1 p.m. today.

Cincinnati's trash-talking has gone surprisingly unrequited, with the usually swaggering Ravens remaining silent.

"There's a lot more things to talk about than talking about Cincinnati," Ravens outside linebacker Jamie Sharper said. "We'll talk to them on Sunday, when we go out and play them."

The conversation has been as one-sided as the memories.

Last year, the Ravens beat Cincinnati by a combined score of 64-7, with the images proving more haunting than the numbers. They knocked then-Bengals starting quarterback Akili Smith out of one game with a crushing blow by Rob Burnett, caused star running back Corey Dillon to storm off the field in frustration, and provided the finishing touch to coach Bruce Coslet's career in Cincinnati.

The Bengals insist today's game will be different. The Ravens just shake their heads.

"Any time you step onto the field, it's a mind game," Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "If you have dominated them previously, your mind-set is already there. We're going to try to go back and create the same dominance we always have."

The domination wasn't limited to the regular season.

In March, the Bengals made quarterback Elvis Grbac their No. 1 target in free agency. But Grbac chose the defending Super Bowl champions over the losingest NFL franchise during the past 10 years despite a much more lucrative offer in Cincinnati.

"He snubbed us," Cincinnati linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "He pretty much put it in real terms, that [the Bengals are] a bunch of losers regardless of how much money they offered.

"But you've got to do what you've got to do. So, it's time for us to do what we've got to do."

A Bengals secondary short on interceptions and vulnerable to deep throws faces a tough challenge in Grbac.

In his Ravens debut, he set the team mark for efficiency, completing 24 of 30 passes. His performance was even more notable when considering one incompletion was a drop by Qadry Ismail and another was Grbac spiking the ball to stop the clock in the first half's waning seconds.

With the failure to lure Grbac to Cincinnati, the Bengals have to find a way to get him off track. Their one attempt to draw Grbac into a war of words over the "snub" didn't work.

"They're trying to turn that whole situation into their favor some way," Grbac said. "The thing that players always do is try to ploy something into some kind of controversy. I have a lot of respect for the guys there."

With Grbac off the free-agent market, Cincinnati settled for Jon Kitna, a Seattle Seahawks castoff.

But Kitna has given the Bengals a confidence boost. After winning the quarterback job in the preseason, Kitna threw for 204 yards and led the Bengals to scores on five consecutive possessions in a 23-17 win over the New England Patriots in Week 1.

Kitna also hasn't been shy about Cincinnati's chances against the Ravens.

"I believe we can win," he said. "I give [the Ravens] their credit; they have an awesome defense. [But] we don't feel hopeless in this locker room right now, believe me."

Along with Kitna, the Bengals figure they can attack the Ravens' defense with the addition of left tackle Richmond Webb, the maturation of second-year receiver Peter Warrick, and the return to full health of receiver Darnay Scott.

The Ravens, though, have another focus.

"Our game plan for Cincinnati will always begin with stopping Corey Dillon," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

The Ravens have shut down the Bengals by eliminating their offensive crutch in Dillon, the league's fifth-leading rusher last year.

In two games against the Ravens last season, Dillon managed a total of 32 yards and was caught behind the line of scrimmage 10 times on 28 carries.

"Once you let him get into your secondary, he can be brutal to your safeties and cornerbacks," Lewis said. "But for us, once we gang-tackle him and get around the ball like we know how to, all of that comes to a halt."

On cue, Cincinnati voiced its opinion on this subject, as well."[Dillon] is going to get 100 yards," Bengals rookie receiver Chad Johnson said. "You can quote that."

The Ravens have not offered a rebuttal - yet. Their immediate concern has been replacing return specialist Jermaine Lewis, who strained a hamstring during Thursday's practice and did not make the trip with the team.

Corey Harris likely will take over kickoff return duties, and Duane Starks or Chris McAlister will probably handle punt returns.

But now, after listening to Cincinnati's bark all week, the Ravens are ready to bite.

"Who cares about the Cincinnati Bengals?" Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "Despite all that psych, we got to line it up just like everybody else. Whatever you need to get [yourself] ready to play, use it. We all have different motivations. We're going on the premise that you're taking food off the table. We've had a taste of success here, and for us to get where we want to be, we have to try to win every game."

Ravens today

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

Site: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 7

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