Updated: 8:55 p.m.
BALTIMORE - The Bengals had the Ravens on the ropes in the second half Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, but didn't deliver the knockout blow until Shayne Graham hit four field goals in seven minutes during a fourth-quarter stretch in helping Cincinnati roll to a 21-7 win over Baltimore.
The win was Cincinnati's first on the road in 349 days—November 26, 2006 in Cleveland—and ended the club's longest road losing streak under head coach Marvin Lewis at six.
Earlier in the fourth period, rookie safety Chinedum Ndukwe's second turnover of the game and Baltimore's sixth turnover looked to preserve the shutout with a leaping end-zone interception of backup quarterback Kyle Boller with 5:50 left for his first career pick.
But Boller threw a 47-yard pass to wide receiver Mark Clayton on the play before the two-minute warning to set up running back Willis McGahee's one-yard touchdown run with 1:56 left in the game that made it 21-7.
"We've got to string something together," Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "We can't get excited over one win. We're happy about this, but I'm not ecstatic. It could be all for nothing after next week. So we have to concentrate on Arizona."
Houshmadzadeh had his streak of catching at least one touchdown in eight straight games come to an end, and finished with six receptions for 45 yards.
Quarterback Carson Palmer cited the players-only meeting last Monday in which the team talked about how a 10-6 record would make the playoffs and a 9-7 mark might get the Bengals in. "There's no reason why we can't do it," he said.
Graham's 33-yarder with 7:38 left was his seventh of the game, breaking Doug Pelfrey's team record, and extended his own club record to 19 straight.
Tennessee's Rob Bironas holds the NFL record with eight field goals in a game, set earlier this season. Graham joins four others with seven in a game. Before Bironas this season, Billy Cundiff was the last kicker to record seven field goals in a game, September 15, 2003 against New Orleans.
Graham said that toward the end of the game, the Ravens fans were cheering for him to get the record.
"That's a pretty good feeling when the other team is rooting for you," he said.
The seventh field goal came after the Ravens' fifth turnover of the day, defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene's strip and fumble recovery of Ravens quarterback Steve McNair at the Baltimore 21.
Graham also got the sixth one after a fumble, rookie safety Marvin White's recovery of a kickoff at the Baltimore 11. The fifth one, a 35-yarder, came after defensive end Frostee Rucker forced McGahee to fumble the ball at the Ravens 32 and it was recovered by linebacker Rashad Jeanty.
Graham's fourth field goal with 14:36 remaining in the game, came a play after guard Andrew Whitworth recovered a Palmer fumble in a scrum. The play was big because it allowed the Bengals to keep possession of the ball and extend their lead to 12-0.
"That was the roughest ball I ever got," Whitworth said. "It was like I took someone's candy."
The six turnovers forced by the Bengals matched the six they recorded in the season-opening 27-20 win over the Ravens. In the next seven games after that opener, the Bengals managed a total of just 10 turnovers coming into Sunday's game.
The first points of the second half came courtesy of Ndukwe's hustle strip from behind of the running McNair. Safety Dexter Jackson, all over the place all day, picked up the fumble on the front side and returned it 19 yards to the Bengals 45. Running back Rudi Johnson, who had no yards on six carries in the first half, shook loose for a 15-yard run and Palmer converted a third-and-long to wide receiver Chris Henry on the sidelines that survived a replay challenge to put the ball on the Baltimore 11.
But Palmer's lob to Henry in the end zone on second down was well covered and he had to take a checkdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Chatman to set up Graham.
Henry was making his first appearance of the season after missing the first eight games due to a league suspension.
"I didn't feel rusty at all," Henry said. "I think the commissioner letting me come back two weeks before I was supposed to come back really helped me."
Palmer, who completed 23 of his 34 passes for 271 yards, didn't hesitate to look Henry's way often. Henry just missed a 100-yard game in his return with four catches for 99 yards.
"It looked like he didn't miss a rep," Palmer said. "He was in a tough spot. Everyody was bad-mouthing him and he had to lay low to stay out of trouble and he was working for free being on suspension. But he practiced and he hung in there."
The last time the Bengals won a game without scoring a touchdown? Jeff Blake's first win as a starter in Seattle in 1994 on Pelfrey's six field goals. The last game in which they didn't score a touchdown? The 2005 finale in Kansas City, a 37-3 loss.
AFC North bruiser
As advertised, Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium was a grind job between two injury-decimated teams desperately seeking a victory, and when Jackson tipped an end-zone interception to rookie cornerback Leon Hall in the first half's last seconds, the Bengals took a 6-0 lead into halftime.
The woeful Ravens offense turned into Air McNair at the two minute warning and McNair led them to a third-one from the Bengals 2 in wheeling Baltimore from its own 27.
But when McNair went for tight end Todd Heap on a lob job to the back of the end zone, Jackson was draped on him and batted the ball away. Hall was there for a touchback and his team-leading fourth interception. Jackson had left the game earlier when he got shaken up on a running play.
The Bengals couldn't pump in running back Kenny Watson on a third-and-one from the Baltimore 1 and had to settle for Graham's 19-yard field goal and that 6-0 lead with 2:32 left in the half.
Palmer said if Baltimore's offense had been more productive, the Bengals offense probably would have been more aggressive. But the Bengals played it pretty tight to the vest, feeling that the Ravens were so banged up in the secondary that Baltimore decided to play in a deep zone rather than expose the inexperienced Ravens cornerbacks.
The Bengals spread the field with three and four wides in their no-huddle offense in an effort to take advantage, and the return of Henry was felt immediately. Late in the half he caught the club's second 50-yard pass of the season, a bomb down the middle beating backup cornerback Derrick Martin thrust into a regular role to put the ball on the Ravens 9.
But Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed blew up the middle to drop Watson on third down and force Graham's second field goal of the game.
The Bengals clung to a 3-0 lead halfway through the second quarter after defensive tackle Domata Peko drilled McNair on third-and-eight to force another Baltimore punt. McGahee hurt the Bengals defense at times with 60 yards on 17 carries, but Cincinnati responded by stopping the Ravens five times on six third-down tries.
When Ravens starting cornerback Cory Ivy went down in the second series, the Bengals went after Martin. Working against him on third-and-seven, Chad Johnson caught a 19-yarder to put the ball on the Ravens 18. But Palmer got denied when he tried to hit Houshmandzadeh double-covered in the end zone, and he had Chad Johnson open at the goal line on a post but overthrew him on third down. Graham's 34-yard field goal, his 13th straight, came with 12:08 left in the second quarter.
Palmer got drilled early by the ravenous Ravens pass rush, but he hung in there and gunned an 11-for-17 half with 184 yards. He spread it around with Henry catching two balls for 71 yards, Chad Johnson three for 62, and Houshmandzadeh two for 20 yards. It's a good thing because the running game went nowhere with 14 yards on 12 carries. Rudi Johnson had no yards on six carries and Watson had just 13 on four carries.
Defenses rule early
The Bengals went three and out on the game's first possession even though rookie Daniel Coats caught the first play of the game for a six-yarder.
Rudi Johnson was stoned for no gain on a run to the left side on second down and Ivy made a nice play on a third-down pass to Chad Johnson that he knocked down on the sidelines.
On the next series Johnson came back to make a diving 23-yard catch on third-and-five and then Henry made his first catch of the season on a 21-yarder over the middle despite Palmer getting blown up linebacker Bart Scott as he delivered the ball.
Rudi Johnson had a miserable start. His first three carries went for minus-3 yards and his false start contributed to a fourth-and-seven from the Ravens 34 with 7:01 left in the first quarter. Palmer had to call a timeout before the Bengals got that play off, and he got hammered again, this time on a sack by middle linebacker Ray Lewis, and the ball popped loose, but right guard Bobbie Williams recovered as the game remained scoreless less than 10 minutes into the game.
It was the first sack the Bengals had allowed in 11 quarters.
The Ravens suffered another shot to their depleted secondary when Ivy, playing for the injured Chris McAlister, left with a concussion when the 340-pound Williams bowled him over after recovering Palmer's fumble. But only the player who fumbled a fourth-down play can advance it.
The Bengals defense got shredded early when McGahee reeled off 33 yards on his first six carries. But middle linebacker Landon Johnson stopped him on a sweep for a four-yard loss on third-and-four, and when McNair went up top on fourth-and-eight from the Bengals 32, cornerback Deltha O'Neal jarred the ball loose from wide receiver Demetrius Williams as they both fell into the corner of the end zone late in a scoreless first quarter.
The Ivy injury decimated the Ravens with McAlister and his mate Samari Rolle inactive, as well as backup corner David Pittman.
The only injury the Bengals seemed in incur was Madieu Williams, who injured his foot on a kickoff. He was going to get it X-rayed after the game.
PREGAME NOTES: As feared, the Bengals go into Sunday's game against the blitzing Ravens without one of their top pass protectors in tight end Reggie Kelly. Kelly is a major reason the Bengals haven't allowed a sack in 11 quarters (since the first series of the Jets win on Oct. 21) and gave up just one against the Ravens in the Sept. 10 opener.
But the offense is going against a Baltimore defense severely downsized with starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle on the inactive list. The Ravens also took a hit when kick and punt returner Yamon Figurs was inactive.
Kelly (knee) went on the inactive list at M&T Bank Stadium, as did leading special teams tackler Herana-Daze Jones (knee), Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson (knee) for the third straight game, and defensive tackle John Thornton (neck) for the second straight game. Rookie Daniel Coats gets his third NFL start, but his first as the first tight end.
With linebacker Anthony Schlegel (back) out, Landon Johnson moved to the middle and Dhani Jones started in Johnson's place on the weak side. Jones has one start this season, but it was on the strong side.
Another rookie, cornerback Leon Hall, got promoted, and maybe in part because of an injury. It was a coaches' decision to start him in place of Deltha O'Neal, limited during the week with a knee problem. O'Neal didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday, but did have a full workout Friday and was listed as probable.
Linebacker Caleb Miller (back), who hasn't played since Sept. 23 in Seattle, was put down again. Center Dan Santucci also didn't dress.
Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry had perfect timing in making his first appearance off his eight-game suspension. Not only were McAlister and Rolle down, but so were backup corner David Pittman and backup safety Gerome Sapp. The usual nickel corner, Corey Ivy, and Derrick Martin, after he got beat for two touchdowns in Pittsburgh Monday night, are the starting corners.
Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed was nearly inactive with his head/neck problem, but he was a late add. When B.J. Sams suffered a season-ending injury in the opener, Reed stepped in and returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown for the first special teams return against a Marvin Lewis team.
But with his injury the Ravens aren't expected to expose Reed to returns and could turn to running back Cory Ross to return punts and running back Musa Smith to return kicks. Ross came into the game with one return for three yards and one of Smith's three kick returns went for 52 yards.
The absence of Jones, who leads the Bengals specialists with 15 tackles (nine more than the next nearest) may be offset by the loss of Figurs, a rookie who was the fastest prospect at the NFL scouting combine. In the third week of the season he popped a 75-yard punt against Arizona for a touchdown and was fourth in the league in kick returns.
The Bengals took the field with their offense introduced en masse and wearing their white jerseys and black pants, a combo that has a 6-6 record. Lewis sent out for his game captains joining Carson Palmer were left end Bryan Robinson and right end Justin Smith for the defense, left tackle Levi Jones for the offense, and Dhani Jones for special teams.
The Bengals won the toss and chose to receive, a good omen. The Ravens were winless this season when losing the toss.