Ravens blank Bengals

12-23-01, 4:10 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

BALTIMORE _ The Bengals' passing game stayed in neutral here Sunday when the Ravens survived running back Corey Dillon's 100-yard day and handed the Bengals their third shutout of the season, 16-0.

Dillon broke the Ravens' streak of 50 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher with 127 yards on 24 carries. But the Bengals' lost their seventh straight of the season and suffered their third straight shutout here at PSINet Stadium even though the defense forced the Ravens to punt the first six times they had the ball in the second half. In that same stretch, the Bengals got the ball three straight times inside their own 10.

Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna's woes continued when his three interceptions killed Cincinnati's three drives into the red zone, giving him 13 interceptions in the losing streak. He also fumbled the ball away on a sack on the Bengals' next-to-last possession to set up Matt Stover's 43-yard field goal with two minutes left in the game.

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis punctuated his feud with Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes with two of the interceptions, the last with six minutes left in the game. Kitna, on first down from the Baltimore 8, tried to hit running back Brandon Bennett over the middle. But Bennett slipped, linebacker Jamie Sharper tipped it, and Lewis caught it before returning it 64 yards.

Dillon had done the bulk of the work getting the Bengals that far. With 7:16 left in the game, he broke a draw play for 19 yards that put him over 100. It was the first time a running back gouged the Ravens for a 100-yard day since James Allen got 163 yards for the Bears on Dec. 20, 1998.

And it was only the second time in the 12 games that Dillon has rushed for more than 125 yards that the 4-10 Bengals lost.

But it was the series that straddled the third and fourth quarters that summed up why the Bengals got beat Sunday. And the misery of a passing game that came into the game without a 20-yard play in the month of December and without a 40-yard play since the second game of the season.

On first down from the Bengals 3, Kitna stood in his end zone and saw rookie receiver Chad Johnson running past Ravens cornerback Duane Starks at the Cincinnati 40. But Johnson dropped the ball delivered over his shoulder.

Then on third down, Johnson had Starks beat again, this time by a good five to 10 yards, but Johnson had to wait for the underthrown ball and the play was broken up.

This one wasn't pretty. In the first half, the Bengals had eight penalties (two were declined), struggling Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac hit 12 of 18 passes for 139 yards, and Kitna's passing rating for the half was 33.9 when he completed eight of 14 passes for 80 yards.

Dillon, looking for his first 100-yard game since Oct. 28, went into the second half with 69 yards on 12 carries.

Bengals defensive end Reinard Wilson was also a bright spot. He picked up his third of the team's four sacks early in the second half, giving him a career-high and team-leading nine for the season.

Working out of the two-minute drill at the end of the half, Kitna directed the Bengals to the Baltimore 20 with the help of rookie receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh's leaping 20-yard catch over the middle.

Then with 1:13 left in the half, Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett tipped Kitna's pass and the ball went high into the air. Kitna followed the ball and tried to spike it into the ground, but he batted it right into the arms of Lewis.

Lewis' 30-yard return set up Stover's 29-yard field goal as time ran out in the half.

The Bengals' defense came in with their own streak of seven straight games without giving up a 100-yard rusher, but their mastery against the run failed early in the game.

Ravens running back Terry Allen, playing in place leading rusher Jason Brookins, hurt them on the Ravens' second drive of the game. Allen ripped off a 22-yard run, the longest the Bengals have allowed a running back since Oct. 21, and it produced Stover's 43-yard field goal with 6:51 left in the first quarter to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead.

Allen, who had 34 yards on eight carries in the half, finished off a nine-play, 80-yard drive by walking in from four yards out for a touchdown that gave the Ravens a 10-0 lead with 13:35 left in the first half.

The Bengals had three penalties on the drive, two for first downs, with the biggest one a 15-yarder on tackle

Oliver Gibson for grabbing Grbac's facemask in the pocket.

The Bengals had success running against the NFL's second-best rush defense, some of the runs coming on draw plays against the blitz and others to the perimeter. Dillon ripped off 60 yards on his first nine carries and Bennett picked up nine yards on a run that put the ball at the Ravens 17 when receiver Darnay Scott recovered his fumble.

But on first down, Kitna went for Johnson in the back right corner of the end zone and cornerback Duane Starks leaped with in Johnson and intercepted it in front of him.

Baltimore deactivated defensive tackle Tony Siragusa with a foot problem, which gave Dillon more room for a running game that produced 82 yards in the first half.

Spikes went nose-to-nose with Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe verbally early and often. That continued the feud that erupted last week when Spikes objected to the objections of Sharpe and Lewis when Spikes was compared favorably to Lewis. Sharpe had three catches for 32 yards in the first half, one a big 12-yarder on the last drive of the half.

The Bengals opted to deactivate running back Curtis Keaton for the first time this season in a move to get six receivers into the game. It also gave the Bengals a shot to look at Houshmandzadeh returning kicks, where Keaton hasn't broken many of his 42 tries with a 21.2-yard average.

Houshmandzadeh also returned punts Sunday and made bad decisions when he caught two punts inside his 10-yard line and one inside his five.

When the Bengals have dressed five wide receivers, Danny Farmer has often been the odd man out. They want to give him more chances in a passing game that hasn't produced a play longer than 19 yards in December.

Plus, with the outside shot that receiver Peter Warrick has to play quarterback if Kitna and Scott Covington get hurt, they wanted to have a full complement of wideouts.

averaging 3.5 yards on his 103 carries and was play

The Ravens also put down leading rusher Jason Brookins and were probably going to start Terry Allen at running back here at PSINet Stadium. The Bengals themselves have a streak of seven straight games without giving up a 100-yard rusher. Allen came into the game averaging 3.5 yards on his 103 carries.

The game had plenty of pre-game hype

Bengals running back Corey Dillon's bid to break the Ravens' streak of 50 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher got a boost before the game Sunday when Baltimore deactivated defensive tackle Tony Siragusa with a foot problem.

The Ravens also put down leading rusher Jason Brookins and were probably going to start Terry Allen at running back here at PSINet Stadium. The Bengals themselves have a streak of seven straight games without giving up a 100-yard rusher. Allen came into the game averaging 3.5 yards on his 103 carries.

The Bengals opted to deactivate running back Curtis Keaton for the first time this season in a move to get six receivers into the game. It also gives the Bengals a shot to look at rookie T.J. Houshmandzadeh returning kicks, where Keaton hasn't broken many of his 42 tries with a 21.2-yard average.

When the Bengals have dressed five wide receivers, Danny Farmer has often been the odd man out. They want to give him more chances in a passing game that hasn't produced a play longer than 19 yards in December.

Plus, with the outside shot that receiver Peter Warrick has to play quarterback if Jon Kitna and Scott Covington get hurt, they wanted to have a full complement of wideouts.

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