12-6-04, 11:55 a.m.


BALTIMORE _ Last Thursday, Jim Breech, the ex-Bengals kicker probably best known for hitting all nine of his field-goal tries in overtime, stopped by Paul Brown Stadium to visit the kickers. The subject got around to the beauty of last-play field goals.

"Never had one," said the current kicker, Shayne Graham. "Against Miami, we still had to go out and kick off because there were two seconds left."

Ask, and you shall receive. The kick against Miami that broke a 13-13 tie came from 39 yards. This one Sunday that beat the Ravens with no time left in regulation, 27-26, came from 24, making him 11-for-11 in two seasons from inside the 30-yard-line, 46-for-52 from everywhere, and 24-for-27 for 88.8 percent as he tries to break the club accuracy record he set last year with 88 percent.

"That kick was more like an extra point," Graham said. "I knew they were going to bring pressure from the outside. We were just trying to keep our operation sound. The snap and hold had been there all day. It was just one of those things that the offense got down there. Chad and T.J. and Carson and Rudi and all the other guys that had the job of getting it down the field. They just really set things up well. You couldn't ask for a better place than a 24-yarder right in the middle of the field."

Graham said he had no idea he was lining up a club record kick when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called on him to tie the game at three early in the second quarter from 53 yards out. Graham had hit a 53-yarder earlier this year against Denver for his career long. This one came up short, keeping him, Breech, and Doug Pelfrey in the Bengals' record book with 13 straight field goals.

So instead of making history, he repeated it. The last time the Bengals won in Baltimore back on Nov. 3, 1996, Pelfrey won it at the gun with a 34-yarder.

"I just didn't get enough of it," said Graham, who rebounded to drill a 41-yarder late in the first half to tie it at three. "I just want a chance to kick another one. That's all we can do. I don't get that many chances to get on the field like a quarterback or a receiver. They get a lot of opportunities. My mistakes have to be few and far between, and I'm just looking for my next opportunity to make one." . . .

There have been a few things in common in the last two games with a defense that has had the knack of coming up with a key stop.

For one, a defensive back the Bengals drafted in the second round made what could have been a game-saving hustle tackle . Safety Madieu Williams dragged down Browns running back William Green at the Bengals 9 after a 46-yard run last week and the Bengals held them to a field goal in a game they led by three until late in the game. On Sunday against the Ravens, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff rode down running back Chester Taylor to stop his run of 47 yards at the Bengals 26 early in the fourth quarter with the Bengals trailing, 20-17. With the Ravens going penny-loafer conservative on offense, they managed just Matt Stover's 38-yard field goal for a 23-17 lead.

"It's one of those plays where you always hear the coaches preaching about giving us a chance to get a turnover or hold them to three points. A four-point swing is key," Ratliff said.

Ratliff started at left cornerback in place of the injured Deltha O'Neal, although O'Neal did play when they used six defensive backs.

Another similarity in the secondary from the last two games: O'Neal left the Cleveland game with an ankle injury, but returned to secure the win with a 31-yard touchdown off an interception.

On Sunday, safety Kim Herring already starting in place of the injured Rogers Beckett (neck), left to get X-Rays on his left forearm, the one he broke when he missed the entire season last year in St. Louis. But he came back and helped hold the Ravens to Stover's 45-yard field goal on the last drive, covering one incompletion to Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap. . .

The Bengals were extremely stingy in the red zone and short yardage. The Ravens got inside their four-yard-line three times and only scored one touchdown. And tackle Langston Moore and outside linebacker Kevin Hardy combined to drop Ravens running back Jamel White for a huge three-yard loss just when it looked like the game was slipping away on White's six-yard run on first down that put the ball at the Bengals 14 at the two-minute warning.

That play, and a holding call on center Casey Rabach, plus the Ravens' decision to throw a stop-clocking incompletion on third-and-17 all contributed to the Bengals having as much as 1:42 for the winning drive. . .

"That's the idea. Give them three instead of seven," said Bengals linebacker Brian Simmons. "That's what you have to do. You do that, you're going to win, especially on the road. . .

It took Lewis 28 games to get a win in every division venue. Dick LeBeau, the man he succeeded, never won in Baltimore or Pittsburgh in his 45 games as coach. Bruce Coslet won once each in Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but never in Jacksonville or Tennessee in the old AFC Central, although he did win a game in Houston during his 60-game run. Dave Shula didn't win his first division road game until his 55th game as head coach . . .

After third down running back Kenny Watson, who usually plays in the two-minute drill, got dinged, running back Rudi Johnson took over the blitz pickups in the final drive. He carried the bal once for a yard to position the bal for the winning field goal and finished with 56 yards on 19 carries. . .

The biggest play of all just might not have involved Chad or T.J. or Palmer. How about the Bengals making a special teams play against the specialty Ravens on the last play of the third quarter when linebacker Marcus Wilkins recovered punt returner B.J. Sams' fumble of a Kyle Larson hanger at the Ravens 19 with the Bengals down, 20-3?

"We've watched film and were warned he has a tendency to do that," Wilkins said. "I knew it was high and I wanted to get as close as I could to him."

Remember when two of the last three games here turned on a fumbled Bengal punt deep in their own territory? Make it three out of four.

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