In conjunction with our recent fan poll, we are taking a look back at the most memorable games of the Marvin Lewis era. Next up (12/5/04): Carson Palmer leads a 17-point fourth quarter comeback capped by Shayne Graham's 24-yard field goal at the gun to give the Bengals a 27-26 win. Here is a reprint of the game summary as written by bengals.com's Geoff Hobson.
Posted: 4:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
BALTIMORE - Shayne Graham's last-play 24-yard field goal capped the Bengals' swashbuckling 27-26 victory over the Ravens after Cincinnati drove 60 yards in the last 1:42.
It was not only the Bengals' first win in Baltimore since Nov. 3, 1996, it also marked their second biggest road comeback since they came back from 18 points in that 24-21 win eight years ago.
"I'd have to say it is the biggest win since I've been here, yes," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, now 14-14 after his team went to 6-6 this season. "It's what I've been telling these guys. It's why I said what I said after Pittsburgh. We can play with these teams. We can win these games. I want these guys not to be happy losing by three."
The Bengals ended a variety of streaks. It was their first win on the road against a winning team in 42 games and 14 years (Dec. 2, 1990).
"This is bigger than the Kansas City win last year," said Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson, who also said game No. 138 was the biggest win in his NFL career. "This has to be the biggest. It has to be the biggest because of how we did it and in a place where we've never won against a team in our division that we're kind of modeling ourselves on."
The Bengals took particular satisfaction in rolling up 453 yards of offense against the NFL's best-scoring defense.
"After the game, you didn't see their defense," said center Rich Braham, who along with Anderson is the only Bengal who had known what it was like to win in Baltimore. "They just left the field. I think they were just stunned."
It was a watershed victory for the young Bengals quarterback and his franchise as Carson Palmer threw for a career-high 382 yards in getting career days from wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh (171 yards on 10 catches) and Chad Johnson (161 on 10 catches), who helped shepherd the Bengals 24-point fourth quarter to cap a 17-point comeback.
Palmer was brilliant in rallying the Bengals back from a 20-3 third-quarter deficit, hitting 26 of his first 31 passes for a career-high 317 yards and pulling them within 20-17 when he whistled a 12-yard touchdown pass past the NFL's co-interception leader Ed Reed into the arms of Chad Johnson with 10 minutes left in the game. Palmer then gave the Bengals a 24-23 lead with five and half minutes left when he pump-faked to the left and hit Houshmandzadeh on the right for a nine-yard touchdown pass.
But then bad karma that has dogged the Bengals in Baltimore for seven years turned into eight. Houshmandzadeh was called for excessive and choreographed celebration for bumping chests with fellow receiver Chad Johnson after the touchdown, and the Ravens took advantage of the 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff with a 10-play, 27-yard drive that resulted in Matt Stover's 45-yard field goal with 1:42 left that gave the Ravens a 26-24 lead.
"We've been doing it all year," said Houshmandzadeh of the chest-bump. "I don't understand it, but we'll do it on the sidelines from now on."
The Bengals recovered Ravens running back Chester Taylor's fumble earlier on the drive, but an illegal contact call on cornerback Tory James negated it.
Cincinnati's go-ahead drive featured a leaping 32-yard catch by Houshmandzadeh and Houshmandzadeh's 16-yard run on a reverse as the Bengals began to dent the NFL's best scoring defense.
Moments before, the Bengals parlayed a special teams gaffe into their first touchdown against the Ravens in seven quarters this season. Ravens punt returner B.J. Sams dropped Kyle Larson's hanger and linebacker Marcus Wilkins recovered at the Ravens 19 on the next to last-play of the third quarter.
Palmer then threw his first of three touchdown passes when he found Johnson all alone for a 13-yard touchdown pass in the same corner he would find him moments later.
Costly turnover turns into big play
On Sunday, the Bengals finished 2-4 in the division after prevailing in a game that was almost decided on an acrobatic 88-yard return by Baltimore's Pro Bowl tandem of Reed and cornerback Chris McAlister.
Despite trailing, 13-3 in the middle of the third quarter, Palmer had been efficient in hitting 16 of his first 19 passes when he made his only mistake of the day, and it cost him dearly. As he got hit, he overthrew Chad Johnson, Reed picked it off and carried it 24 yards until tight end Tony Stewart stripped him of the ball. The ball rolled to McAlister, and he ran it in from 64 yards out to give Baltimore a stunning 20-3 lead with 2:29 left in the third quarter.
Boller had earlier jacked the lead to 13-3 when he hit all five passes in the first drive of the second half and running back Chester Taylor, en route to the first 100-yard day of his career, scored from a yard out. Taylor finished with 23 carries for 139 yards.
Bengals struggle early
The Bengals wheeled in Sunday with their best chance in years to win the club's first game ever here in M&T Bank Stadium, but the same demons that have stalked them in this city for seven straight years wasted no time showing up.
Still, a week after being in the highest scoring game since the NFL merger, the Bengals scraped together enough plays on defense to trail just 6-3 after a first half of three field goals.
The Ravens didn't take the lead until four seconds left in the half when Matt Stover kicked a 22-yarder after wide receiver Clarence Moore dropped a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Boller. It marked the fourth time a team has scored either a touchdown or a field goal against the Bengals in the last 18 seconds of the first half.
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer hit his first seven passes, but the one that counted came later when Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson streaked past two other Pro Bowlers in cornerback Chris McAlister and safety Ed Reed to haul in a 51-yarder that set up Shayne Graham's tying 41-yard field goal 2:25 left in the half.
Palmer could have had a touchdown pass on the previous snap when running Kenny Watson beat another Pro Bowl in linebacker Ray Lewis, but the throw didn't match Watson's route.
Working against these band of Pro Bowlers, Palmer (13-of-16 for 129 yards) outrated Boller, 110.3-66.2 in the first half. But seven of running back Rudi Johnson's 13 carries went for two yards or less on his way to 30 yards, they had the fumble, and Boller saved his best for last when he threw for 68 yards in a hurry-up offense at the end of the half that took just 2:21 to get the field goal.
It looked like the Bengals had held Stover to a far field-goal attempt when cornerback Deltha O'Neal blitzed off the edge and got a sack to force a third-and-18 from the Bengals 38. But Boller found wide receiver Travis Taylor in front of safety Madieu Williams and behind safety Kevin Kaesviharn.
Earlier in the drive, rookie defensive end Robert Geathers let Boller wriggle out of a sack for a completion.
Trying to stay away from the four turnovers that blew up their bid to beat Baltimore 70 days ago in Cincinnati, tight end Matt Schobel fumbled on the Bengals' seventh play of the game to set up the Ravens 3-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
Then, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs blitzed up the middle untouched to sack Palmer on third-and-10 and take the Bengals out of field-goal range. That allowed the Ravens to hold that 3-0 lead into the second quarter when Graham's bid for a club-record 14th straight field goal came up short from 53 yards.
The 5-6 Bengals, trying to close within a game of the 7-4 Ravens in the AFC North, started out shaky, spending two timeouts in the game's first six minutes. And, after no gain on third-and-five, Schobel fumbled after a hit by safety Will Demps. The Ravens turned it into Stover's 20-yard field goal after the ubiquitous Reed returned it 22 yards.
The Bengals made a nice stand from their 11 when Kaesviharn came up to stop tight end Todd Heap a yard shy of the first down to force Stover's field goal attempt.
Heap, the Pro Bowler with an injured ankle, made his first appearance in nine games, and was expected to play about only 20 snaps.
Heap's condition, along with Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis's injured ankle that prevented him from extending his 100-yard rushing game streak against Cincinnati to eight, were just some reasons for Bengals optimism. Plus, right tackle Orlando Brown didn't play and Boller came in with the next-to-worst passing game in the NFL.
But shifty Lewis backup Chester Taylor made the Bengals miss enough tackles to give him 52 yards on 10 carries, and Heap caught three balls for 22 yards in the half, one that converted a first down.
But for the most part in the first half, the Bengals defense bailed out an offense that could manage just a field goal after scoring the most points in the NFL this season in last week's 58-48 victory over Cleveland.
Madieu Williams came home to Maryland and registered impressive back-to-back plays to force a Ravens punt from the Bengals 49. On second-and-two, Williams blew up wide-open receiver Kevin Johnson at the Cincinnati 25 to force an incompletion and then came back on the next snap and penetrated a sweep to hold Taylor to no gain.
Offense moves the ball
Jamal Lewis may have been injured and unable to extend his 100-yard rushing game streak against Cincinnati to eight. But it still came down to the Bengals moving the ball against the Ravens No. 4 defense, and it just wasn't easy as Palmer tried to rebound from the season-high three interceptions he suffered in Baltimore's 23-9 victory in Cincinnati earlier this season.
In order to take the pressure off Palmer, the Bengals re-emphasized this week their work on the early downs, particularly on first down. The Ravens are the only defense in the league holding foes to less than four yards a play on first down at 3.72, which allows them to all-out blitz on second and third downs.
Pass protection may have been a factor in the decision to deactivate rookie running back Chris Perry for the seventh straight game. His strained abdominal muscle didn't seem to bother him as he loosened up in pregame workouts, but the Bengals might not have wanted his inexperience in there trying to pick up blitzes in a noisy stadium where offenses have a difficult time communicating.
Plus, their third-down back, Watson has been a key contributor in a stretch the Bengals have allowed no sacks in three of the last four games coming into Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals defense is allowing 6.3 yards on first down, better than only Kansas City and New Orleans. They didn't want to give Boller that kind of a break given that he's one of the worst third-down passers in the league at 54 percent.
The Bengals got a break when O'Neal, questionable during the week with an ankle injury, passed the pregame test well enough to start at left cornerback, but rookie Keiwan Ratliff got the start instead.
Also inactive for the Bengals was strong safety Rogers Beckett with a neck problem, giving former Raven Kim Herring the start in his first trip back to Baltimore.
Also inactive: Offensive linemen Stacy Andrews and Alex Sulfsted, and defensive linemen Greg Scott, Terrance Martin, and Shaun Smith.
Herring returned as one of the game captains, along with Kaesviharn, defensive end Justin Smith, fullback Jeremi Johnson and tight end Tony Stewart.