Secondary winces at long afternoon

Bengals' air plan pays as Ravens' pass defense has less-than-stellar day

Bengals 34, Ravens 26

Nfl Week 7

October 20, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

CINCINNATI -- Toward the end of his team's 34-26 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday, Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller called an impromptu meeting of the secondary.

"I had to," Fuller said. "These guys are still young. You want to let them know that we have a long way to go. We have to stay together. It was like the Pittsburgh game. But one thing I will say, those two weeks, [Cincinnati] used them to get ready."

Fuller was referring to the two weeks -- because of a bye -- the Bengals had to prepare for the Ravens. As for their readiness, Fuller was right on about that as Cincinnati's Jon Kitna threw for 274 yards and a season-high three touchdowns. He recorded a whopping 130.8 quarterback rating.

It was the most passing yards against the Ravens all season and the worst game by the pass defense since Week 1 against Pittsburgh.

"The [defensive backs], we'd been playing good football for weeks," safety Gary Baxter said. "Things like that are going to happen. They came in and made some big plays. Hats off to them."

The biggest Bengals play came on what amounted to a lucky bounce, or unlucky one for safety Ed Reed. Down 14-7, the Ravens' Dave Zastudil placed a punt at the Bengals' 18-yard line on the first play of the second quarter.

On Cincinnati's first offensive play, Kitna went long to receiver Chad Johnson, who was a step behind Fuller, Reed and Baxter, 45 yards downfield.

The ball hung up just enough for Reed to make what looked to be a sure interception, but the ball slipped through his hands, off his shoulder pads and caromed to the streaking Johnson, who ran the remaining 35 yards for a touchdown.

"I had a great read on the ball," Reed said. "I jumped up there, thought I had it, and it kind of went through my hands."

It was one of a handful of times the Bengals attempted to get the ball deep to Johnson, with Fuller drawing initial coverage every time.

Heading into the game, Fuller said he knew the Bengals were going to try to test him and the entire secondary. The results, according to Fuller, were not as bad as they may have appeared.

"I earned my check today because those boys were coming at me," Fuller said. "All they ran were deep routes. But you take away that deep ball, and what did [Johnson] do? That man had about 40 yards receiving if he doesn't have that 82-yard bomb."

That may be true, but the Ravens also gave up touchdown passes to tight end Matt Schobel of 45 yards and to Peter Warrick of 21 yards, the latter a back-breaker that put the Bengals up 34-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter after Reed failed to get over in time to make the tackle.

"We've been here before against the first team we played against," Reed said, referring to the Steelers game. "We made a lot of mistakes and they exposed us."

The Bengals also converted seven of 15 third downs, including three on the drive that ended with Warrick's touchdown.

"We've got to get off the field on third downs," Reed said. "If we don't get off the field on third downs, we're going to get tired, they're going to make plays and they're going to score when they shouldn't.

"Corey brought us up and said what he needed to say, and it's the truth. It doesn't just start on Sundays. We can't just cut the light on. We have to all play during the week, which we do. But it's got to be more, and we've got to demand more from each other."

And hope to create some lucky bounces of their own.

"I liken it to basketball," Fuller said. "You've got Dennis Rodman making shots he normally doesn't make. The ball went their way. They had plays go their way that don't normally go their way.

"I don't think if they play the Ravens four times, that's going to happen four times in a row. That's why they're called big plays. Can I say it's mental [mistakes] by the secondary? If that's the way y'all want to write it up. But the reality is, they made plays and we didn't."

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