Brash Spikes drives home point with interception return for TD

Perceived snub by Grbac motivated linebacker

Bengals 21, Ravens 10

September 24, 2001|By Mark Curnutte | Mark Curnutte,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CINCINNATI - During the Ravens' Super Bowl run, tight end Shannon Sharpe asked defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis how many points the defense needed the offense to score to win.

Yesterday at Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals linebacker and emotional leader Takeo Spikes told quarterback Jon Kitna the defense needed 17 points from the offense for a victory.

The offense scored 14 in the Bengals' 21-10 victory, and Spikes provided the rest with a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown of an Elvis Grbac pass in the fourth quarter.

Through three long seasons, in which the Bengals were 11-37, Spikes has been the one constant voice in the clubhouse who never could get used to losing.

Yesterday's game, spiced with Spikes' pointed comments toward Grbac for choosing Baltimore over Cincinnati, who pursued the free-agent quarterback this past off-season, could be Spikes' coming-out party onto the national stage.

"I said [Spikes] should have been in the Pro Bowl last year," Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said. "Today, you saw why I said that."

Trailing 14-10, the Ravens had driven to the Bengals' 27-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. On first down, Grbac threw for Sharpe. Spikes hung in between zones in pass coverage and leaped high to snare the ball.

Spikes ran down the left sideline and carried tight end John Jones into the end zone.

"When it happened, I said, `I see a lot of green down there. I don't see anybody,' " Spikes said. "I caught myself looking at myself running on the scoreboard. That's how I knew the guy was coming at me from the side. It was, `We're going in the end zone.' "

It was Spikes' first career touchdown in 50 games. Scoring a touchdown is a topic Spikes and fellow fourth-year linebacker Brian Simmons often discuss.

"It's something I've been dreaming of," Spikes said.

The touchdown put the Ravens down 11 and forced them to throw 64 times, the most ever against the Bengals, surpassing the 62 passes Phil Simms threw for the New York Giants in a 1985 loss to Cincinnati.

Spikes enjoyed the score even more because it came at Grbac's expense.

In March, Grbac received an offer from the Bengals worth more money than he got for signing with the Ravens. Grbac said he wanted to play in Baltimore because it had a better chance of going to the Super Bowl.

"It was a big motivation [to play against Grbac]," Spikes said. "We're building something here. I just kept reminding everybody that he was the guy who said he didn't want to come here, that he had a better chance to win in Baltimore."

Late in the first half, Spikes looked more like a goat than a hero. In the Ravens' 17-play, 74-yard drive that ended with an interception in the end zone by Simmons, Spikes committed two penalties that gave the Ravens first downs.

Spikes was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting Grbac on a second-and-goal from the 9. Later, on a third-and-goal from the 3, Spikes was called for holding wide receiver Travis Taylor in the end zone.

The Ravens had eight snaps inside the 10 but didn't score. A touchdown pass to Patrick Johnson was reversed on replay when it was shown Johnson stepped out of bounds before catching the pass.

"That series right there, if you want a slogan for what we stand for, look at those plays. We will not be denied," Spikes said.

Later in the fourth quarter, Spikes had another interception and long return called back because linebacker Steve Foley was offside.

The Bengals still forced six turnovers.

"We needed to make big plays, and I felt like I needed to make a big play," Spikes said. "A lot of guys look at me on this team as their Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens. Don't say that. I'm Takeo Spikes of the Cincinnati Bengals."

LeBeau has seen Spikes make big plays in practice.

"I keep razzing him, `C'mon, Spikes, when you going to do that for me on Sunday?' " said LeBeau, who was Spikes' defensive coordinator when he was drafted. "It was probably the biggest play in the game. ... That's one you don't expect. It was a flat pass, and he just made an unbelievable catch on it and used his speed to get in the end zone."

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