Curse of Coslet?

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Call it "The Curse of Bruce Coslet."

Since the Ravens led the Bengals, 34-0, with 6:39 left in a Sept. 24 game after Baltimore coach Brian Billick chose to throw six passes in one final touchdown drive, the Ravens haven't been in the end zone since.

That's five straight games. Make that 20 straight quarters without a touchdown when the teams meet this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

How long ago is that stretch? It might as well go back to the Coolidge administration. The Bengals, held to four yards rushing that day, lead the NFL in rushing as Week 9 winds down.

Which makes for a tidy little matchup because Baltimore's top-rated defense is ranked first against the rush.

"They were actually really trying to embarrass us," said Bengals defensive tackle John Copeland Monday as the Bengals started to forget about their second straight win and began to remember the humiliation.

The Bengals and new coach Dick LeBeau are trying to downplay that last quarter in Baltimore, but it's clearly brought a snap, crackle and pop to the locker room this week.

"They were throwing the blankety-blank ball all over the place and the game was pretty much over," Copeland said.

Were the Ravens running it up because Billick supposedly worships offensive stats? Who knows?

But what appeared to incense Coslet and many Bengals even more after the game was the Ravens throw a pass toward the end zone right before the two-minute warning and then challenging the no-touchdown call from the Bengals 1-yard line.

Billick capped off Coslet's outrage by having Matt Stover kick a 19-yard field goal with two minutes left in his 37-0 victory. And some Bengals wonder if that last straw convinced Coslet to resign as Bengals coach 16 hours later.

"It was the worst of the worst," said Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes. "The lowest of the low."

The Ravens haven't scored a touchdown since Coslet left.

A fuming Coslet bit his tongue and didn't comment on Billick's playcalling after the game or the following Tuesday.

"I wonder why they haven't scored a touchdown since they played us," Spikes said.

The Curse of Bruce Coslet, he was told.

"Probably so," Spikes said. "You never know. But everything happens for a reason."

There is lingering bitterness how the Ravens handled the last quarter, such as from backup safety Cory Hall: "That was ridiculous. They caught us in a bad predicament and took advantage of it. They had no class at all what they did."

Although right tackle Willie Anderson observed, "It was dirty what he did. It was real dirty," he along with defensive players such as Spikes and defensive tackle Oliver Gibson believe the Bengals have to take responsibility for the debacle because they couldn't stop the Ravens.

"It's in the back of our minds, but we're not going in with a payback mentality," Anderson said. "We have to take it upon ourselves to be a better football team when we step on the field. When you get beat, 37-0, you should be mad only because you're getting beat, 37-0. . .What? We had four yards rushing and (94) total yards? We were embarrassed on offense."

Spikes said he plans to remind people about how they were dominated, but also said, "I would have done the same thing. I don' feel sorry for anyone who doesn't come prepared to play."

Or as Gibson said, "I would have done the same thing (the Ravens did). We were getting our butts kicked. It's not going to happen this week. If we get the opportunity, I want to run them into the ground. That's football.

"I don't believe in a gentleman's rule of football," Gibson said. "If it was up to me, we wouldn't kneel down. I don't blame them. I would do the same thing. Hopefully we get to do the same thing."

Most of the Bengals are taking the cue from LeBeau. LeBeau said Monday that Billick's decisions against his defense, "doesn't interest me. . .

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"The idea here is not to get into a situation where you get far behind at the end of the game," LeBeau said. "You don't have control over the plays the opponent runs. The idea is to control the plays throughout the game so you don't get into that situation."

After the Baltimore Blowout, the Bengals were 0-3 and had yet to have a lead. Which is why LeBeau came in trying to reach competitiveness "one snap at a time."

The next week against Miami, a 13-0 lead evaporated into a 31-16 loss. They've won their last two games by having the lead for 83:53 of the 120 minutes.

"New team, Dog," Spikes said of his Bengals. "New attitude. Everything happens for a reason."

Anderson points to the way the Bengals prepared for Baltimore last month and how they'll do it this week.

"The week of practice was a real passive week," Anderson said. "It was, 'It's a great defensive team. We can't do this, we can't do that.' With the coaching staff now, we don't care. We're going to try and run the ball and get good, productive yardage out of the passing game. It's the mindset (is different). . .It might be another ugly game. They have a great defense and our defense is playing good right now."

The 2-6 Bengals are coming off a 12-3 win over Cleveland in which they scored one touchdown. The 5-4 Ravens lost to Pittsburgh, 9-6.

But there's also a sense from the Bengals that revenge will only take an offense averaging 111 passing yards per game against a defense allowing just 181 so far.

"We know they're going to bust out at some point," said Copeland of the Ravens' offense. "We have to make sure it won't be against us. They will see a different team, though. We aren't the same team."

Gibson is echoing the LeBeau theme since he took command. Only worry about the Bengals.

"I could care less about Baltimore and what they do," Gibson said. "We have to try and do what other teams have been doing to them and keep them out of the end zone."

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