BY GEOFF HOBSON
BALTIMORE - Some pregame thoughts:
Call this one a Validation Game. A win on the road against one of the AFC's elite teams. Not to mention a win on the road against a team that has been at the top of their division for the last handful of seasons. A Bengals' win over the Ravens here Sunday lets everyone know that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' blueprint and no-more-just-getting close mentality is taking hold.
Lewis has been fighting a cold this week and has been laying low with the public comments. But he said enough this past week to let you know how badly he wants this win. He says his team needs a big win, and a win where they haven't won since 1996 against a team they can help prevent making the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons ... You can't get a more quality win than that.
Let's face it. The Bengals' five victories haven't exactly come against the iron. They've beaten just one winning team (Denver) and the clubs they have beaten have a combined record of 19-36. Lewis knows it's time to beat a contender in order to become a contender ...
It's also the kind of game that shows why they drafted quarterback Carson Palmer No. 1. With Ravens running back Jamal Lewis out, this has become a QB's game. Baltimore has put the ball in the shaky hands of Kyle Boller, and this is a duel that Palmer should and must win for the Bengals to break that horrific skein of 42 straight road games without a victory over a winning team ...
Lewis said right guard Bobbie Williams played his best game as a Bengal last week against the Browns, when the Williams-Willie Anderson 700-pound tandem controlled defensive tackle Gerard Warren and the Cleveland Browns so the Bengals could rush for 254 yards.
"We wanted to give him everything he wanted until he didn't want any more," Williams said. "It's great having a guy like Willie next to me because I know when there's a double team and I've got a guy jacked up, he's going to be right there to finish it off."
Williams, a fifth-year player who came to the Bengals this spring after starting 12 games for the Eagles, has given his Pro Bowl partner a lift now that he's playing with a guy that has a similar power game.
"I've never really had a guy like that next to me and when I see a guy like him jacking guys up, it inspires me," Anderson said. "You're only as good as the guy next to you. If the guy next to you is smart, you're going to be more effective. We've been in sync pretty much since the first Pittsburgh game."
In the seven games since then, running back Rudi Johnson has rushed for more than 100 yards four times, but maybe more important is that the Bengals have allowed just 11 sacks in those games, and none in three of the last four.
The Bengals knew Williams could run block. They feel he's one of a handful of players in the league who can actually move defensive tackles backwards.
But they were concerned about his feet if they are are fast enough to handle fast pass rushers. After a rocky start with some penalties and whiffs, he seems to be holding up rather well.
"It's been a matter of getting used to the guys around me," Williams said. "Getting used to the communication, the way Richie (Braham) snaps the ball, the way Carson does the count. The big thing with me is being consistent. To have a good game followed by another good game."
And, he'll have to do that Sunday against the Ravens. The Bengals feel one of the big matchups is their offensive line handling the Ravens on first and second down in the running game so they don't have any third-and-longs, which is deadly for a younger quarterback against Ed Reed and Co.
"Bobbie's a hard worker. He knew coming in how people (compared) his run blocking and pass blocking," Anderson said. "But he's done a good job getting this team's technique down after doing something else for four years." ...
At least one web site has linked Bengals wide receiver Hue Jackson to the head coaching search at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, but Jackson has declined comment ...
There is no word if Bengals running backs coach Jim Anderson has been contacted about the Stanford job. He interviewed there the last time there was an opening . . .Other potential candidates are defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who has more than 10 years of college experience as a head coach at Trinity and secondary coach at Illinois, and linebackers coach Ricky Hunley, a finalist last season for the job at his alma mater of Arizona.