Posted: 6:05 a.m.
BALTIMORE - It was almost like 2004 again, when the reporters in the visitors locker room at M&T Bank Stadium mobbed the corner where Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh dressed after combing for more than 330 yards.
Five years later The Ocho emerged from the shower with seven catches for a season-high 94 yards and saw the throng around Andre Caldwell's locker spilling into his space and exclaimed, "Damn, 'Dre."
This time Caldwell caught his second last-minute pass in two weeks for the winning touchdown to end a drive The Ocho made possible in literal combat with two future Hall of Famers.
"They'd been playing really aggressive all day keeping their hands on our guys downfield," Palmer said. "We kind of felt like we were waiting for some (pass interference calls) downfield and we got a call there at the end."
After wide receiver Chris Henry drew a five-yard pass interference call on cornerback Chis Carr on the first play of the drive with 2:15 left, The Ocho drew an unnecessary roughness call on good friend Ray Lewis with 48 seconds left that put the ball on the Ravens 35 and then a pass interference call on safety Ed Reed with 27 seconds left that put the ball on the 20.
The next snap featured The Ocho, Caldwell, Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry running straight down the field and quarterback Carson Palmer finding Caldwell out of the slot and alone in the middle of the field after he had juked Carr to the outside.
"I want to be known as Mr. Clutch, just like T.J.," Caldwell said.
Caldwell only scores them late and critical. It was also his second NFL touchdown catch.
Meanwhile, The Ocho looked more like Mr. T after the fight with Rocky with his right eye a bit swollen after Lewis gave him a hellacious helmet shot while Ochocinco was in midair.
Lewis, the perennial Pro Bowl middle linebacker, actually does Biblical devotionals with The Ocho every Sunday morning. But in the heat of Sunday afternoon, Lewis lost his head when he sent Ocho's helmet flying into Delaware.
At various stages Ochocinco said he told Lewis either, "I love you," or "I'll get you back."
Asked if it was the hardest hit he's ever taken, The Ocho said, "Not as hard as the one I'd give him when I chased him down ... it was impressive. ... It was a good hit, but I think he should have just pushed me down instead of hitting me, because I was in midair and I had no way of protecting myself. But it was a good play by him."
For 59 minutes and 38 seconds the Bengals had killed themselves on offense. Even a few plays before the touchdown, tight end Daniel Coats dropped what could have been his second touchdown catch and the Bengals nearly fumbled the ball away when center Kyle Cook fired a shotgun snap when Palmer wasn't looking and running back Brian Leonard fell on it.
Plus there was fullback Jeremi Johnson's dropped touchdown pass, Cook's hold on a 20-yard pass to Henry, and a total of five pre-snap penalties of false starts and delay of games. But in the end, it was the killer-cold Ravens that self-destructed on that last drive.
"They are not over-aggressive. The Ravens are the best defense in the league, along with Pittsburgh. I would tie them both at No. 1. They are going to make their plays in the crunch time," The Ocho said. "It's hard (to get calls on them) because they are so good. It's just unfortunate that they came at the end of the game, because I don't think they had a penalty the entire game. It was a situation where when we needed them the most. But I wouldn't call it over-aggressive."
How far has The Ocho come? In the last minute of the first half he caught a 20-yard pass over the middle and jetted away from the pack and it looked he just had one man to beat as he got in the red zone. But Reed came up from behind him and tipped it away for a lost fumble.
"That (got me mad)," The Ocho said with some colorful language. "You've seen me for nine years. You know this is the best I've been running with the ball. I thought I had it tucked away real good, but that's Ed Reed for you."
It was plays like that that in the past would make it all boil over and become combustible. But Palmer immediately went up to Ochocinco and put his hand on his shoulder and patted him on the helmet.
"He told me, 'Don't change a thing the way you're playing,' " The Ocho said. "Yeah (it helped)."
But Ochocinco said what everybody was thinking: "We have to be more consistent on offense. We're not going to be able to keep doing this."
At 4-1, The Ocho isn't surprised. He figures everyone saw Hard Knocks this summer.
"As far as media, as far as the fans also, because of the hard work we put in, Hard Knocks, what you're seeing now shouldn't be surprising," he said.
What Caldwell is doing isn't surprising Palmer or head coach Marvin Lewis.
"Andre is really doing like we expect Andre to do. We really felt comfortable and confident that he would grow into this, and we would really be able to do some things with him that we weren't quite able to do all the time. It's been great," Lewis said. "Every week he gets better. He's got great vertical speed. He's got great vertical speed. That was basically the play that we scored on, we tried to throw it in there to Danny, and we've got guys hanging on him. But, we were able to get it adjusted and move other guys in there, and it's a big play. That's a great job by the quarterback."
Palmer called the last play two-man coverage. Caldwell said it was man-to-man with Carr in the slot.
"Best man wins. I beat him," Caldwell said. "He's a good player. He'd done a good job on me all game holding me to one catch. But I was able to make a move on him. Yeah, it's looking that way: Saving the best for last."