Offensive co-captain Bobbie Williams talked about regaining the attitude that won the AFC North last year and he had to say mission accomplished even if his team didn't score a touchdown in Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener the Bengals ruled, 15-10, over the Ravens.
It marked the third straight win over Baltimore's proverbial black-and-blue platoon led by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, the eighth straight AFC North win, and the first win over a winning team since the Bengals beat Pittsburgh last Nov. 15.
And, not to mention, it puts them 1-1 and heading to reeling 0-2 Carolina next Sunday.
"It ain't pretty, but it's a win and in the NFL, Bengals vs. Ravens, that means a lot," Williams said. "There's no more intimidation. How they used to come around and Ray did his dancing and all that. It's a new day."
Asked if the smashmouth attitude had been reestablished after the Patriots pushed them around in Foxborough last week, Williams said, "absolutely, absolutely," and safety Chris Crocker agreed.
"There wasn't any doubt; it was just really humbling," Crocker said of the 38-24 loss to the Pats. "It just showed us that you can't win games in the press. You can't just talk about it; you have to show up and do it. So this week, we said we weren't going to talk — we were just going to go out there. As far as the first week, we just sucked, so we wanted to right the wrong."
Crocker typified the gut-check the Bengals performed in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be quarterback Carson Palmer's 11th career fourth-quarter comeback and his first since the 17-14 win against these Ravens in Baltimore last Oct. 11.
When cornerback Johnathan Joseph went down with cramps after shadowing Ravens wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on an incompletion with 4:34 left, Crocker, the free safety suddenly became a key man. With cornerback Adam Jones already in the locker room with a shoulder injury, Crocker slid inside to the slot to cover Houshmandzadeh or Anquan Boldin. Not exactly a cake assignment since both wide receivers have been savvy enough to make more than 1,100 NFL catches between them.
But with Crocker, the help of a fired-up pass rush, and the play of cornerback Morgan Trent, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco couldn't get a ball to a wide receiver on his next five and final snaps of the game.
"That's the attitude," Crocker said. "Who's ever up has to come through. Morgan came in and the line got great pressure."
PALMER GRINDS: Palmer said it all Sunday after he watched the Bengals defense outmuscle one of the NFL's elite defenses and helping the offense win despite not mustering a touchdown in four red-zone trips.
"There's a lot of talk about Baltimore's defense. Everybody hypes them up, and they're great, but I think our defense took that as a personal challenge, and they outplayed them today," Palmer said after he jacked his record against Baltimore to 9-3 despite a 60.1 passer rating. "They had four picks, stuffed the run game, shut down their receivers and took over the game. It was just awesome to see our defense play like that."
It was Palmer's lowest passer rating in a win since going for 44.8 in a 19-14 win over the Browns in December 2007.
It was a pure grind job. Palmer threw 20 balls to his top two wide receivers and came out of it with seven completions. Then in front of their adjoining lockers, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens held their first joint news conference since Owens' arrival and admitted they were frustrated but hopeful.
"As Chad said, we haven't even scratched the surface as far as what we can do," Owens said. "We're frustrated because we're going three-and-out. We have the type of offense where we can march down the field. We have enough weapons to dissect defenses, but we just aren't doing that yet. We just have to pick up the intensity as it translates to game day."
JONES BACK: The last time Bengals cornerback Adam Jones intercepted an NFL pass, it was December 2006 and he was called "Pacman."
On Sunday he took it just 10 yards, but it set up one of Mike Nugent's five field goals and set the tone for a day the Bengals picked off Flacco four times. It was the first time they had four picks in a game since the Ken Dorsey shutout on the Cleveland ice sheet on Dec. 21, 2008
And it officially said Jones was back after a one-season exile, so it was a lot longer than that last pick.
"That's a long time, huh?" Jones asked. "I'll take it."
Jones gave credit to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and secondary coach Kevin Coyle.
"I knew what was going on," he said, "and what route he was running."
Jones read the tight end, saw it was a backside slant and knifed inside wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
"I've been busting my butt," Jones said. "I'm a product of what the coaches put out there."
Jones later left with a shoulder issue after Ravens running back Ray Rice tackled him hard on the return, but indications are he'll be ready next week in Carolina. Joseph should also be back.
HOUSH BLANKED: It only happened once in his last 70 games as a Bengal. It happened Sunday in his return to PBS in another uniform.
No catches. And he was down on himself. He thought five of the six balls Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco fired at him he could have caught. The only one that didn't came with just under six minutes left in the game. On third down Flacco took a shot at him in the end zone from the Bengals 19 and fourth cornerback Morgan Trent covered him on a ball that was overthrown.
Billy Cundiff kicked a field goal on the next snap to the give the Ravens a 10-9 lead with 5:46 left, but the Bengals would parlay Bernard Scott's 60-yard kick return and two picks on the last two series to win it.
"I thought we would win. If I did my part, we win," Houshmandzadeh said.
"Everything," said Houshmandzadeh, when asked what he did wrong in his second game as a Raven. "Even if I make two of them it's a different game … I have to make those plays. Normally l do. I think that's what I do well. I go up and get the ball. I didn't do so well today … I think everybody that played a skill position made a play except for me. I've got a lot of work to do."
It sounded like the fans were booing Houshmandzadeh whenever the Ravens threw at him or he came on the field. He didn't think so. He thought it sounded like something else.
"I thought for the most part they were cool," Houshmandzadeh said of the crowd. "I don't think they booed me. I think they said my name. I think it's kind of cool they appreciate what I did when I was here. I'd like to show them things why they appreciated me."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» It was the fifth time in history the Bengals won a game without scoring a touchdown and the last one was also against the Ravens when Shayne Graham beat them in a 2007 game with seven field goals, 21-7.
Ironically, Graham signed with the Ravens in free agency, got cut, and in his first Paul Brown Stadium game as his successor, Nugent kicked a career-high five field goals to win the home opener. During his four-year stint with the Jets from '05-08, Nugent kicked four seven times.
It was the sixth time a Bengal had kicked five field goals in a game. Horst Muhlman and Doug Pelfrey did it twice and Jim Breech did it once. Nugent also added three touchbacks.
» The Bengals got a huge break after running back Bernard Scott's 60-yard kick return with 5:46 left in the game and the Ravens leading, 10-9. On the first snap, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was called for roughing Palmer after he threw an incompletion to running back Cedric Benson.
Referee Gene Steratore told a pool reporter that he defined roughing the passer as "the defender who has driven his body weight onto the quarterback as he's tackling him. He's applying his body weight on there … I felt like had driven himself into the ground with the quarterback."
It was the second straight game Steratore had to Meet The Press. He worked the Lions-Bears game last week and had to explain the Calvin Johnson juggling act.
» The Bengals continue to befuddle the Ravens wide receivers even though Houshmandzadeh and Boldin have been added. Six days after the Ravens drew seven pass interference or holding penalties against the Jets secondary, they got none against the Bengals. Flacco threw at Houshmandzdeh for no completions and the longest of Boldin's five catches was 13 yards. Baltimore's longest play was the 31-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason running past Joseph that gave them a 7-6 lead four minutes into the second half.
It was Mason's only catch Sunday and in the last three games against Baltimore the Bengals DBs have allowed the Ravens wideouts three passes longer than 20 yards on a total of 15 catches.
» Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco caught his 700th career ball on his last reception of the daythat gave him four catches for 44 yards. It was a big one. It came late in the third quarter on a third-and-nine with the Bengals trailing, 7-6. It came right after they had forced a three-and-out that featured Joseph dumping running back Ray Rice for a two-yard loss.
The Ocho got some yards after catch for 14 yards and it ignited a 13-play drive of 5:09 that gave the Bengals a 9-7 lead.
"It has always been this way for the past 10 years," said The Ocho of lack of big plays against the Ravens. "There has never been a blowout. It has always been close. I don't know why it has been like that. It's extremely frustrating, from a skill position perspective."
But he got a big compliment from Palmer.
"The guy's the best receiver in the league. He's playing like it right now. I know there's Larry Fitzgerald out there, and a handful of other guys like Andre Johnson. I think he's the hardest receiver in the league to cover and I'm glad he's on our team," Palmer said.
"He's fast, he's quick, he's explosive and he's smart. He catches everything. He's experienced; he's been around a long time. He's played against every corner. He's had success against every corner. He's tough. It's hard to find a weakness in Chad."
» Head coach Marvin Lewis handed out some big compliments to running back Cedric Bensonand Scott, his backup, on their blitz pickups. Palmer may have completed just 16 of his 35 passes, but he was sacked just once against a defense that feasts on sacks.