Bengals Take Advantage Of Ravens Turnovers
Tuesday, September 11th 2007, 10:13 am
News On 6
CINCINNATI (AP) _ Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis warmed up by skipping in the end zone, acting much like a heavyweight boxer getting psyched up for a fight.
He was the first one knocked out.
The Cincinnati Bengals won a game of attrition Monday night, using a goal-line stand to hold on for a 27-20 victory that was an appropriate opener for the AFC North's last two champions.
Thanks to a half-dozen Ravens turnovers and a shining last minute by a suspect defense, the Bengals (1-0) were the last ones standing _ barely.
``An ugly win or a pretty win _ a win is a win against that defense,'' said Carson Palmer, who threw a pair of touchdown passes.
This one left the Ravens with more worries than just that 0-1 record.
Baltimore won the division by five games last season, thanks to a defense that gave up the fewest points and yards in the NFL. It was in customary form Monday, even though its emotional leader wasn't.
Lewis strained muscles in his upper right arm when he leveled receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the Bengals' first pass of the game. In a lot of pain, he headed for the locker room to get the arm examined and wrapped.
Lewis returned to the game but favored the arm. He'll have a medical test on Tuesday to learn the extent of the injury.
While he was in the locker room getting treatment, Lewis missed Chad Johnson's latest venture in sideline theater. The self-promoting receiver celebrated his 39-yard touchdown catch by going to the sideline and donning an oversized blazer that said, ``H.O.F. 20??'' _ putting his career in the Hall of Fame category.
``I told you I would give you a show,'' said Johnson, who caught five passes for 95 yards.
Players kept dropping, but the show went on.
For several series, the Bengals were missing three starters from the offensive line _ center Eric Ghiaciuc and tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson, who made his 113th consecutive start but shuffled in and out of the game with a chronic foot problem.
Operating behind a line that was a work in progress, Palmer completed 20-of-32 for 194 yards with two touchdowns and only one sack.
``I don't think I got sacked,'' Palmer said, forgetting the one time he was dropped. ``That's a victory in itself right there. I'm confident with whoever they shuffle in there.''
The Ravens had to adjust as well. A severe knee sprain sidelined kick returner B.J. Sams, so safety Ed Reed filled in and ran a punt back 63 yards for a touchdown that gave the Ravens their first lead, 20-19, early in the fourth quarter.
``Our players were dropping to injury right and left,'' coach Brian Billick said. ``I am proud of what this team did. To bring that up after a loss sounds a little feeble, but this team will stand together that way.''
Steve McNair made the difference.
Entering his second season running the offense, McNair got off to a miserable start. He fumbled on a sack, muffed a handoff to Willis McGahee and threw an interception that set up Palmer's 7-yard touchdown pass to Houshmandzadeh midway through the fourth quarter.
McNair also had the ball slip out of his hand on a pass attempt. Linebacker Landon Johnson caught it in midair and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.
Baltimore had six turnovers overall _ four fumbles, two interceptions.
``The turnovers _ that's unacceptable,'' said McNair, who was 20-of-34 for 203. ``I have to give my team a chance. It starts with me on five of those six turnovers. I've got to correct that.''
The Ravens still had a chance after Rudi Johnson fumbled at the Bengals 24-yard line with 4:42 left. Kyle Boller replaced McNair, who had pulled groin muscles on the last series, and drove the Ravens to the 1-yard line.
Tight end Todd Heap caught what appeared to be a touchdown pass, but was called for pushing away safety Dexter Jackson to get open.
``Stunned?'' Heap said. ``It's tough to make a call like that in that situation. He's grabbing my jersey and I'm trying to get my hands away from him.''
It ended when Boller's pass deflected off Heap's shoulder and was picked off by a diving Michael Myers in the end zone with 1:13 to go.
``I was just trying to get off a block, saw the ball tipped and went for it,'' Myers said.
Nothing in this game was quite that simple.