Bengals lift blackout

9-21-01, 5:30 p.m. Updated: 9-22-01, 1:00 a.m. Updated:
9-22-01, 10:35 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals have lifted the local television blackout for Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium against the Ravens.

The 1 p.m. game, which can now be seen on Channel 12 in Cincinnati and Channel 7 in Dayton, is one of six NFL games that weren't sold out 72 hours before kickoff. Because of the Sept. 11 attack, the NFL has allowed those home teams to televise the games locally.

"We're happy we have the option to show the game," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "Not only will people be able to enjoy the game, but also the special events which are planned to honor both our victims and heroes."

MATCHUP OF THE GAME: This is one of the reasons the Bengals signed seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Richmond Webb during the offseason.

Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary has eight career sacks against the Bengals.

And when he's not doing that, he's recovering the quarterback's fumble. As he did on Akili Smith's 16-yard line last year to set up the Ravens' first touchdown in five games.

And when he's not doing that, he's forcing the quarterback to fumble. As he did to Jeff Blake two years ago to set up a field goal that gave the Ravens' defense an untouchable 13-0 lead in a 22-0 victory.

Since Nov. 10 1996, no one in the NFL has more sacks than McCrary's 53. But Webb did shut him out when they met in the Dolphins' 24-13 victory over Baltimore in 1997.

"He changes direction. He's got more than one rush

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move," Webb said. "He's a guy you can't play overly aggressive against. He has good lateral movement and you have to be patient with him."

Is the 31-year-old McCrary slowing down with 6.5 sacks last season after a four-year run he logged 48.5 in 64 games?

Probably not, given his style compared to a guy like Patriots defensive end Willie McGinest, the man Webb played in the opener.

"It's just the way he plays," Webb said. "McGinest has the shakes and stuff, but you tend to get a little more out of McCrary on the run and the pass. He's the type of guy you think you have him blocked and you think the play is over with and he'll still make something happen. He's a great effort guy. You have to stay on him until the whistle blows." **

FLAG DAY:** The atmosphere for Sunday's game figures to go beyond anything like Opening Day or the playoffs. It's going to be Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July rolled into one.

The Bengals and Ravens will play under a canopy of red, white and blue as the NFL honors the victims of last week's attacks.

"The Pledge of Allegiance is going to be a little more meaningful for me," said defensive tackle Oliver Gibson of the pre-game routine. "All of America was put on notice.

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Usually, I'm in a zone by then, but every line is going to mean something as opposed to just being another ritual."

Tight end Marco Battaglia, probably the Bengal most affected by the attacks that left his hometown of New York City devastated, knows it will be emotional.

"Not just for me, but for everybody," Battaglia said. "The bottom line is a terrible thing happened to the country and the NFL took a week off for the first time in a long time."

GAME DAY: The Paul Brown Stadium crowd, along with the other 1 p.m. games, will watch Bon Jovi sing "God Bless America," accompanied by the Manhattan police and fire departments.

Also at the game:

 All fans will receive an American Flag placard upon entering the stadium, donated by Berning Printing and C.J. Krehbiel Printing Companies;

 All fans will also receive a keepsake pamphlet for the in-game tribute;

 Field-level "United We Stand" bunting will be on display;

 The Ohio State University Marching band will perform pre-game and at half-time;

 A field-sized American Flag will be unfurled prior to the National Anthem by more than 200 Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Professional Firefighters;

 A patriotic video tribute will be showcased on the two 90-foot wide video screens;

 A moment of silence will precede the National Anthem;

 The colors will be presented by the Ohio Army National Guard;

 The National Anthem will be sung by recording artists Trin-I-Tee 5:7;

Plus, all players will wear an American Flag Decal on their helmet, and all personnel will wear special sideline hats incorporating the American Flag.

The Bengals got a patriotic preview at Friday night's peace vigil at PBS. Head coach Dick LeBeau, accompanied by captains Willie Anderson and Takeo Spikes, briefly addressed the crowd.

LeBeau has suggested players donate to the cause. The NFL and the NFL Players Association has each donated $5 million to a disaster relief fund.

**

MATCHUPS:**Bengals DE Justin Smith makes his NFL debut in spot situations against Pro Bowl Ravens LT Jonathan Ogden. Bengals LT Richmond Webb takes on sack ace Ravens DE Michael McCrary.Bengals WR Peter WarrickchallengesRavens CB James Trappand Ravens S Carnell Lake in the slot.

Pro Bowl Bengals RB Corey Dillon takes aim at Baltimore's regular-season record of 34 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher (38 including playoffs) in a matchup with Ravens LBs Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper. In the coaching booth, Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, the man Dick LeBeau hired to straighten out the passing game, matches wits with Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the man LeBeau mentored in Pittsburgh.

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**

SMITH VS. OGDEN:** LeBeau says Smith has looked good in his two weeks of practice and that he may even be ready to play all three downs on some series. He'll most assuredly play on several passing downs.

LeBeau chalks up much of Smith's quick study to his fitness, but he also warns, "He has to grow into the National Football League. Don't expect him to be the great savior in his first game. I don't think any of us should."

Ogden has four inches, 70 pounds and five seasons on Smith, so if the rookie is as fast the scouts say (and he says) he is, now is the time to use the speed.

WEBB VS. MCCRARY: An intriguing game within the game. Two of the AFC's premier players at their positions during the '90s as Webb, 34, and McCrary, 31, try to fend off Father Time for another season. **

WARRICK VS. TRAPP, LAKE:** Super Bowl hero Duane Starks returns to left corner after missing much of the preseason and the opener with a knee injury. So he and Chris McAlister will be on the outside receivers when the Bengals go three wides, and it will be interesting to see how the Ravens play the alignment.

Lake, LeBeau's former Pro Bowler in Pittsburgh who signed with Baltimore two weeks ago, is probably too long in the tooth and brittle to take on Warrick and can Trapp hold up for an entire game?

DILLON VS. LEWIS, SHARPER: Lewis, the Super Bowl MVP, is ferocious against the run. Will the Bengals try to back him off the line and throw the ball to the running backs?

Sharper is probably the most versatile of the Ravens' Pro Bowl-caliber linebackers and is an excellent cover guy. Can he cover Dillon in space?

BRATKOWSKI VS. LEWIS: It's Bratkowski's multiple formations vs. Lewis' multiple blitzes. The Jets (in the preseason) and the Bears (in the opener) had some success mixing up their formations against the Ravens, but the games also proved you can't live off a spread offense against Baltimore's speed.

Still, Bratkowski figures to toy with three- and four-wides in an effort to get the Ravens' gargantuan defensive tackles off the field, such as Tony Siragusa, and make them tackle Dillon with an extra defensive back in the nickel package.

"Moving their tackles is like try to move two dump trucks," Bratkowski said.

On the other side, some Bengals don't think Lewis is using his zone blitzes as much, and why should he with the oodles of talent in all three areas?

But Lewis, the Steelers' linebackers coach when LeBeau was the defensive coordinator, studied his mentor's surprise tactics well. Starks' 49-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl came off a zone blitz. Just when you least expect it. . .

ANOTHER MCCRARY?: Speaking of McCrary, the Bengals hope they've got a younger version in first-round pick Justin Smith.They're both 6-4, 270 pounds and both play like it is their last snap. It just so happens that Smith makes his debut against Ravens Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden Sunday.

Webb, who has worked against Smith in practice, thinks he has special quickness.

"He has the capabilities,

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the speed, and the athleticism as some of the guys in the league that have that quick first step," Webb said. "Something about a guy like that, he's got the advantage playing at home. The crowd noise gives the defensive end an advantage. The tackle's head has to look down at the ball. The end gets you to that point and it becomes tougher to block him."

What separates McCrary is his down-to-down intensity. That's what is supposed to make Smith special.

"It gets turned up in a game," Webb said. " If he plays in a game with the tempo of anything like he does in practice, I think he'll be fine."

NUMBERS GAME: All the numbers you need for the weekend, including 34 and 82. As in the Ravens' NFL regular-season record of 34 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher against Bengals running back Corey Dillon's average of rushing for 82 yards in his last 34 regular-season games.

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64_Points scored by the Ravens against the Bengals in eight quarters last season.

27_Quarters the Bengals took to score 64 points last season.

62_Interceptions by Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau during his playing career.

58_Career interceptions by Ravens safety Rod Woodson.

10_Woodson's career interceptions against the Bengals.

6_Career interceptions by starting Bengals cornerbacks Artrell Hawkins and Rodney Heath.

53_NFL-leading sacks by Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary since Nov. 10, 1996.

51_Total sacks by Bengals in 1999 and 2000.

12/21/97_Last time the Bengals beat the Ravens, from which only four of Cincinnati's 22 starters are in the same spot on this Sunday and five of the 22 are still on the team. Running back Corey Dillon, right tackle Willie Anderson, tight end Tony McGee and wide receiver Darnay Scott are in the same spot. Center Rich Braham was at left guard in '97.

12_Bengals' wins since the last victory over the Ravens.

THIS AND THAT: The regular officials return after a two-game walkout and Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins knows what that means: "The replacement guys let you get away with a little more and it was kind of nice. Just let them play and decide it. We're going to have to be more careful now because it's going to be tighter. . .

What doesn't Corey Dillon do? After Dillon took a fire extinguisher to help douse a brief fire in the Bengals' sauna Friday, right tackle Willie Anderson yelled, "The man has no fear." On Sunday, Dillon tries to douse the hottest team in the NFL. The Ravens have won 12 straight. The closest is the Packers' five-game winning streak. . .

With last week's game postponed until Jan. 6, FB Nick Williams gets a break as he heals from surgery on his anterior cruciate knee ligament. He'll get another week on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and be eligible to start practicing a week later on Oct. 30.

MIND FRAMES: As emotional as Sunday will be, the Bengals haven't forgotten what is at stake for them as a team. They are playing the defending Super Bowl champions who have outclassed them, 86-7, in their last three meetings.

The players pretty much agree the team that got drilled, 37-0, in Baltimore

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nearly a year to the day doesn't exist.

"We're confident going into play them and I don't think you could say that last year," Battaglia said. "I've been saying since minicamp this is a different team. We still feel like we're a different team."

Gibson agrees. For the first time in his Bengals career, the Bengals are 1-0.

"When you win that first game, the second game is always big," Gibson said. "We've always believed we can win. Now we're going to find out how good we are. It's a measuring stick game."

By the way, Gibson's defense is taking this one upon themselves. The unit that has vowed to improve last year's woeful production of 21 turnovers is still looking to generate its first one of the season.

The Bengals know in the Ravens' last four losses before they went on their 12-game winning streak, they had nine turnovers.

"We have to win the turnover battle. We have to get some," Gibson said. "We have to hit the quarterback."

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