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Defense gets the band back together


Cornerback Adam Jones didn't get to return a punt Sunday, but a 12-yard interception return set up a Bengals field goal.

The Bengals defense survived a couple of rocky moments Sunday and re-grouped long enough to get the band back together to offer some of their signature hits against the Ravens in the 27-24 crazed fest at Paul Brown Stadium.

Led by their seasoned trio of cornerbacks, they continued the PBS misery of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, stopping one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks with two more interceptions while holding him to 195 yards, no touchdown passes, and a 43.1 passer rating. Flacco is on pace for career bests in virtually every slot and came in fourth in the NFL in passer rating and TDs and just two weeks removed from a five-TD game in Tampa. But he left with a career line of five touchdowns and 11 interceptions in seven PBS games.

Like they did all last year, the defense rescued the offense after a turnover with a quick three-and-out. No mean feat with the Ravens offense having the fewest three-and-outs in the NFL and clock-chewer Justin Forsett running the ball with the NFL's highest yardage per carry for a running back.

With 6:12 left in the game and leading 21-20, the Ravens moved from the Bengals 43 to the 37 to face a third-and-four after defensive tackle Devon Still penetrated from the other side to run down Forsett for a one-yard gain. The Bengals got a good push from the line and blitzing cornerback Leon Hall walked his blocker close to Flacco and Flacco had to unload it short to force a 53-yard Justin Tucker field goal with 3:59 left.   

_WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict fought off a knee injury and stayed in the game for a goal-line stand that left the Ravens with nothing after an opening 18-play drive. With seven tackles, Burfict was back where he belongs after missing the last three quarters last week with a neck  injury: at the top of the team tackling list. And he got in a big one on third-and-goal when he teamed with lineman Wallace Gilberry to stop Forsett at the 1 on third down to set up Flacco's fourth-down incompletion.

Although they sacked Flacco just once, the Bengals hope it's a sign of things to come. It was two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins' first full sack since he tore his ACL on Halloween night in Miami. Gilberry also brought some heat at opportune times, particularly on the last series.

  They had their first two-interception game of the season, courtesy of SAM linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and cornerback Adam Jones.

Jones cut in front of wide receiver Torrey Smith at the Ravens 30 and when he returned it to the 18 it translated into a Mike Nugent 32-yard field that gave them a 17-6 lead with 6:29 left in the third quarter.

"From watching film, I knew it was going to be a slant. I got a good jam on him and made the play," said Jones, whose first of five Bengals picks came against Flacco at PBS in 2010.

It was a good enough jam that Smith had to leave to get checked for a concussion and when he came back he still didn't get a catch on just two targets. Smith had come in hot, averaging 18.5 yards per catch. It typified how the Bengals physical play at corner handcuffed a Ravens wide receiver corps that had been running wild of late.

Flacco came into the game tied for third in the NFL with 32 passes of at least 25 yards but had just one Sunday and that was because of a couple of missed tackles on a running back.

"We've got good coverage guys in the back end. The way our secondary played today was just excellent," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "The corners played an excellent football game, to not allow a deep ball to this group. They've been beating people with deep balls. I thought Terence (Newman), Leon and Adam did a very good job today. And Dre Kirkpatrick comes in and makes two great plays there."

In the Ravens' 29-7 victory over Atlanta last week, the Ravens gave the Falcons fits with the long ball and the Bengals were on it.

"We saw the last couple of weeks they got big chunk plays," Newman said. "There's no way to give up points quicker than to give one up over the top or get (pass interference penalties). Last week they had a couple of P.I.s for big yardage. They got the ball on the one. Our focus was to make sure we covered the routes, be as tight as possible and let our D-line do what they do."

It's no secret the defense was coming off its worst three-game stretch in several years.

"The last three weeks, it's been like a funeral around here," said nose tackle Domata Peko. "It's good to get back on top."

 They had allowed their most points in four years and most yards in 45 seasons for three games, but they held a Ravens offense coming off a 74-point scoring binge in the last two games without a touchdown for the first 43 minutes.

"We had a big slide the last three weeks. We played some very good offensive teams and defensive teams that played well," Newman said. "It was good to get back on track and do the things we know we're capable of doing."

Burfict, the quarterback, agreed that more of the pieces were in more of the right places.

"We needed it a lot," Burfict said. "Everyone (went all)  out to the ball and that's what happens when you (have) good chemistry and no one's messing up, getting out of their gaps (too early) and that's what happens."

After giving up 37 points against Carolina in the tie at home two weeks ago, this was more like it. They'd like to clean up their rush defense, but they did hold Forsett to nearly two yards below his per average mark.

"At the end of the day, you look at the outcome and we did our job," Newman said. "We knew we could do it. We fought with each other and fought for each other and pulled it out."

Adam Jones thought the point had been made.

"Enormous,' he said of the victory. "It gave guys in the locker room confidence to know if we don't beat ourselves, we can be really good."

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