10-19-03, 3 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals used big plays on both sides of the ball to assault the Ravens and the stat sheet in no particular order while taking a 24-7 half-time lead Sunday here at Paul Brown Stadium.
With the help of Ravens free safety Ed Reed, Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna uncorked the longest pass of his career on an 82-yarder to wide receiver Chad Johnson that Reed tipped into his hands at the Ravens' 35-yard line. When Johnson spread his hands in mock surprise after running into the end zone, the Bengals led, 21-7, 12 seconds into the second quarter after finishing off the Bengals' longest pass since 1995.
The Bengals came into the game as the only team in the NFL without a fumble recovery, but two in a span of three minutes gave them 14 points in the first quarter for a team that had scored just 10 points in the first quarter all season and hadn't scored 14 points in the first quarter in nearly four years.
They finished off the first-half scoring, which gave them their most points in a game this season, when they turned a diving interception by cornerback Tory James into Shayne Graham's 44-yard field goal with 6:24 left in the half.
Except for a 35-yard run, the Bengals did a decent job on Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, but the NFL's leading rusher still had 85 yards on 13 carries at the half while Bengals running back Corey Dillon could manage just 14 yards on nine carries.
Kitna completed just five of 11 passes, and he got sacked three times in the first half, but he had 154 yards passing that included a 45-yard touchdown to tight end Matt Schobel. Johnson ended the half with 108 yards on three catches.
Dillon, in his first action re-injuring his groin three weeks ago, had one vintage inside-the-tackle run to keep the drive going, and another to end the drive for a two-yard touchdown that gave the Bengals the 14-7 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
The points came courtesy of defensive end Carl Powell's sack and forced fumble of Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller (with the help of strong safety Rogers Beckett), and then Powell's recovery at the Baltimore 15.
With Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis facing the Baltimore defense on which he made his name, his new defensive fittingly put Cincinnati in position to make a move after falling behind, 7-0. Right outside linebacker Brian Simmons responded when Jamal Lewis knocked the ball out of Boller's hands on a play-action fake.
Simmons swiped it from Boller under the pile at the Ravens 47 and seconds later Kitna hooked up with Schobel on third-and-eight. With the Ravens double-teaming Johnson and fellow wide receiver Peter Warrick, Schobel outraced outside linebacker Adalius Thomas down the middle of the field for the longest pass to a Bengals tight end since Tony McGee caught a 54-yarder nine years ago.
The Bengals turned Boller, the lowest-rated passer in the NFL, into Unitas and Starr on the game's first series. In the five previous games, Boller had completed just five balls of 20 yards or longer, But with tight end Todd Heap working one-on-one with free safety Mark Roman and then Beckett, Boller found him for throws of 22 and 20 yards, respectively. Then he found wide receiver Travis Taylor on a 19-yard touchdown pass he threw just over the tight coverage of James 4:45 into the game.
The Ravens hurt themselves continually with penalties, logging seven in the first half for 60 yards.
Marvin Lewis offered one surprise and one expected move just before kickoff. Rookie Carson Palmer was elevated to the No. 2 quarterback behind Kitna for the first time this season. If No. 3 Shane Matthews played, he would have to finish the game. Dillon put two fingers in the air to signal he was go after stretching and jogging about two hours before the game.
Marvin Lewis named Kitna his offensive captain, and went with end Justin Smith on defense and strong safety Marquand Manuel on special teams for the Ravens.