Updated: 7:40 p.m.
Bengals safety Chris Crocker, the old Cleveland Brown who arrived here last year when the Bengals were 0-7, doesn't want to hear about those bad old days. Heck, the Bengals are a playoff-type 10-6-1 since.
"I wasn't here. A lot of guys weren't here," Crocker said Sunday after the Bengals had seized control of the AFC North with a sweep of the Ravens in a vintage 17-7 division slugfest at Paul Brown Stadium. "That was back in the day. A lot of guys weren't here, so we don't worry about the old Bengals. We're writing our book right now. Forget about everything that happened in the past; you have to live in the present."
How big of a win? Not only are the Ravens staggered at 4-4, but the two losses to the Bengals give the Bengals the edge in any tiebreaking scenario for the playoffs between two division foes. The next tiebreaker is common opponents, and then record in the AFC.
"The big picture is not only division opponents, but AFC opponents. That's all we think about, it's all we talk about," Crocker said. "Win the division games and beat your AFC opponents and we'll do what we're supposed to do. We're not surprised. We really aren't. We're not surprised by where we are. Everybody on the outside is like, 'Wow, the Bengals ... they'll fall apart anytime.' We just keep getting better."
RADAR LOVE:The Bengals, 4-0 in their division for the first time in history after a sweep of Baltimore, may no longer be under the radar after Sunday's eye-opening victory over the favored Ravens.
"I'm pretty sure a lot of people overlooked us. Nobody probably expected us to be where we are today, but we saw ourselves doing it," said running back Cedric Benson, who became the first player since Ricky Williams in 2002 and 2003 with back-to-back 100-yard games against the Ravens (117 yards on 34 carries). "Why not continue to be that underdog team and get that ring?"
With the 6-2 Bengals headed to Pittsburgh next Sunday to play the Super Bowl champion Steelers, they moved a half-game ahead of the idle 5-2 champs that wait to play Denver on Monday night. Benson knows the Bengals will be underdogs for a second straight week.
"I'm sure," he said. "We have no problem with it. We'll try and prove people wrong once again."
BETTER THAN '05:The Bengals now have at least six wins at the halfway point for the fourth time since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 and in the previous three seasons they went to the playoffs.
And quarterback Carson Palmer says they are a better team than the last one to do it, his 2005 AFC North champions.
"We're much more mature. We're a better team," Palmer said after he lifted his record to 8-3 against Baltimore with his seventh game of at least a 91 passer rating against the Ravens with a 91 by firing for 224 yards on 20-of-33 passing for a touchdown, as well as no interceptions for the second straight game. "We were kind of young dumb. This team understands how rare this opportunity is. Not just happy to be there. Guys take a lot of pride in where we are and are going to take a lot of pride as the season goes on to finish this season out right. ... It's a different team."
OCHO'S DAY: Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is now 1-1 after he sends a package to the opposing team. But he's going to put that .500 record on the line because he says he'll send one to the Steelers this week in preparation for Sunday's AFC North showdown in Heinz Field.
He had the Ravens reaching for that Degree deodorant he sent them last Thursday a few times. He caught four balls for 45 yards in the first 10 minutes and finished with five catches for 66 yards on a day running mate Laveranues Coles had his Bengals highs with six catches for 72 yards.
The Ocho, who had just three catches for 37 yards in 2004 after he sent the Browns Pepto Bismol, also drew a big pass interference call in that first quarter on cornerback Fabian Washington when the Bengals faced a fourth-and-two from the Ravens 39. Palmer got the one-on-one matchup he wanted down the left sideline and the Bengals had a life at the Baltimore 15 that set up Benson's one-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead 12 minutes into the game.
The pregame histrionics didn't seem to bother head coach Marvin Lewis, who knows it gets The Ocho ready for a game.
"You know how I am ... the trash talking — the things I do — it forces me to play at a high level," said The Ocho, sporting a huge pair of glasses. "A lot of people question it, but it's the only way I know how to play — talking and going out there and backing it up. I think I did that today except for losing those two balls, but those are things that I can fix. I have another gift package, and it's going out this week to the Steelers."
"I just want to say hello to Troy (Polamalu), Willie (Parker), Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark. I'm not sure if (Clark) will be healthy yet, but please get healthy fast, " The Ocho said of his Steelers pals. "This is a very important game for us. I was seeing it as a two-game season. We've got one down. Now it's a one-game season, as far as solidifying the division."
One thing Lewis was not pleased about was how The Ocho fouled up his one second-half catch, a big 21-yard ball on third-and-seven over the middle on the heels of Baltimore cutting the lead to 17-7 with 12:54 left in the game. Just like his fumble against Baltimore last month, Ochocinco tried to get yards after catch with safety Ed Reed in the vicinity and Reed raked it out of his hands at the Bengals 43 with 7:56 left.
Lewis said the Bengals had to "clean up" The Ocho's ball security and when he was asked how that is done with a veteran, he gave the media a few laughs.
"You throw that term around loosely when you're talking about 85," he laughed in a joking mood. "I wouldn't say 'veteran,' and I think you can start over every day with him. It's just something that he's going to have to do a better job of. We're on him in practice about it, because not taking care of the football is how you get beat."
Someone in the media caught Ochocinco on the sidelines with a dollar bill as the refs reviewed his brilliant leaping 15-yard catch on the sidelines on third-and-eight that he seemingly reached his arms straight out and plucked out of the air in between Reed and cornerback Domonique Foxworth. But the replay showed he came down with one foot on the edge of the sideline.
"You saw that? I was going to give them a dollar just to bribe them — just give me the call — give me the catch," Ochocinco said. "We need this one. I might get fined. Mr. (Roger) Goodell, I'm sorry. I'm just having fun."
But his money season keeps rolling. Ochocinco is averaging 14.5 yards per his 44 catches, on pace for 88 receptions and 1,278 yards, which would be his sixth season of at least 80 balls and 1,200 yards.