Well-oiled Bengals machine starts to sputter

Ravens dull effectiveness of offense and defense

Ravens 31, Bengals 13

Nfl Week 14

December 08, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

The Jon Kitna-led Cincinnati Bengals had done plenty right in winning six of their previous seven games, including a four-game winning streak before yesterday's 31-13 loss at M&T Bank Stadium.

Kitna had completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,647 yards and 16 touchdowns during that time and entered the game having totaled 2,811 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Kitna's 19-4 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio in his previous nine games led a Bengals squad that ranked 10th in NFL passing and 12th in rushing. Among the last three teams the Bengals had beaten were the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

But something about playing in Baltimore brings out the worst in the Bengals, who lost here for the sixth straight time and are 0-40 (since December 1990) in road games against teams with winning records.

First-year coach Marvin Lewis was in no mood to discuss the losing streak, particularly the one involving the team he helped lead to the 2000 Super Bowl title.

"Yeah, right, OK. Bad question. We'll move forward on that one, All right? Thanks," said Lewis, responding to a question about his club's futility in Baltimore.

Kitna's three-game streak of dismantling defenses with nine scoring passes and no interceptions ended on pass No. 139 in yesterday's fourth quarter - a span of 17 periods. Kitna was intercepted by Will Demps and then by Ray Lewis, stopping the Bengals' first two drives of the period.

The quarterback was sacked twice each by Terrell Suggs, Adalius Thomas and Peter Boulware, fumbling three times as a result of the hits. Suggs and Boulware recovered the fumbles they caused.

Kitna blamed the fan noise for disrupting the Bengals' offensive rhythm.

"We were basically working on a silent count all day because my voice, being hoarse, the offensive line couldn't hear me, aside from the center," said Kitna, who was sacked on Cincinnati's third, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth possessions and intercepted on the 11th and 12th.

"With it being loud, they [Ravens] just got after it today, and they kind of smelled blood. It was a tough day all around."

In a 34-26 victory over the Ravens on Oct. 19, Kitna threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns - one each to receivers Chad Johnson (82 yards) and Peter Warrick (21 yards) and tight end Matt Schobel (45 yards).

But Johnson (two receptions, 15 yards) was shadowed by Chris McAlister yesterday - with occasional help from the Ravens' Chad Williams - and did not make a reception until the fourth period. A week earlier, McAlister had held San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens to three receptions for 23 yards. Schobel was limited to two receptions for 22 yards.

"Man, they shut me down," said Johnson, who had likened himself to an always-open 7-Eleven. "7-Eleven got robbed."

Warrick (11 receptions, 90 yards, one touchdown) had a good day receiving, but he muffed the punt that Williams recovered at Cincinnati's 27-yard line midway through the first period, setting up Jamal Lewis' 1-yard run for a 7-3 lead, one the Ravens never lost.

Cincinnati had averaged nearly 200 rushing yards in November, but yesterday Bengals running backs combined for only 100 yards.

The Bengals' defense had held running backs to 4.8 yards per carry in five games in November, but Lewis (30 carries, 180 yards, three touchdowns) averaged 6 yards, eluding backfield pursuit from Riall Johnson, Brian Simmons and others.

"You have to say it was a combination of both their line play and Lewis' running," said Bengals sacks leader and defensive end Duane Clemons. "They were playing so much better than us in all phases - offense, defense, special teams. It was us not being able to step up and stop the run at certain times and turning ball over, giving them too many opportunities."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.