BY GEOFF HOBSON
In their worst display since Dick LeBeau became head coach, the mistake-riddled Bengals never recovered from Baltimore's 21-point second quarter during Sunday's 27-7 loss.
A crowd of 54,759 at Paul Brown Stadium watched the Bengals offense fail to score two touchdowns in a game for the eighth time in nine weeks.
Two weeks ago, running back Corey Dillon went into the record book with 278 rushing yards against Denver. On Sunday, he was simply fodder for Baltimore's top-ranked rush defense with 23 yards on 16 carries.
The Bengals offense came out of its funk briefly in the third quarter when they lined up rookie receiver Peter Warrick at quarterback on third-and-goal from the Ravens 4.
Warrick took the snap and followed trapping right tackle Willie Anderson's block on cornerback Duane Starks for a touchdown with about six minutes left in the third quarter.
But Warrick was the only Bengal who found any running room. At one point in the third quarter, Dillon had 13 yards on 13 carries with his last five rushes netting no yards or a loss.
One series in the fourth quarter symbolized the frustration of the Bengals' offense. Warrick had Starks beaten down the right sideline as quarterback Akili Smith floated a 40-yard pass, but Warrick couldn't hang on as he fell to the turf.
Then two plays later, Dillon got stuffed by the Ravens' middle on 4rth-and-1 at the Bengals 38 and Baltimore cashed seven plays later for Matt Stover's 32-yard field goal that put the Bengals in a 27-7 hole with 8:58 left in the game.
After the Warrick touchdown, the Bengals could get nothing out of the passing game. On the next series, Smith threw low to Warrick on a slant and then receiver Craig Yeast appeared to break off a route over the middle for another incompletion that forced a punt.
After three quarters, Smith was still trying to break the 100-yard passing mark with 10 of 18 passing for 97 yards.
Baltimore snapped its streak of 21 quarters without a touchdown when the hapless Trent Dilfer emerged from a Paul Brown Stadium phone booth as Kurt Warner in the second quarter and threw for three touchdowns and finished the first half hitting 13 of 17 passes for 160 yards. For the game, he threw for 244 yards.
With Baltimore allowing less than 11 points per game and the Bengals scoring 10 points per game, it quickly became a long day.
The clincher came on his last scoring throw, when Dilfer wriggled out of the grasp of Cincinnati lineman Michael Bankston and hit uncovered tight end Shannon Sharpe on a 19-yard pass with 2:04 left in the half.
The play was set up on a 45-yard screen pass to Ravens running back Jamal Lewis. Lewis ran all alone down the right side until he faked strong safety Chris Carter into a missed tackle for 15 more yards.
Four minutes earlier, Sharpe got behind free safety Darryl Williams for an 18-yard touchdown pass
But Dilfer got plenty of help from his defense, five Cincinnati penalties in the game's first 18 minutes, and a sluggish Bengals' offense that hasn't scored against Baltimore in 10 quarters.
In the first minute of the second quarter from the Bengals 14, Dilfer converted a third-and-long when he hit reserve receiver Brandon Stokley running virtually wide open on a crossing pattern.
The Ravens got a life when the Bengals stopped them on third down, but were called for 12 men on the field.
The touchdown was a gift for the struggling Ravens offense that hadn't scored a touchdown since beating the Bengals, 37-0, six weeks ago.
Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams shot through the Bengals offensive line and disrupted Akili Smith's handoff for Brandon Bennett and the fumble was recovered by defensive end Michael McCrary at the Bengals 17 to set up Baltimore's first touchdown.
The Bengals let the Ravens establish the running game with Lewis carrying 12 times for 82 yards in the first half and finishing with his second 100-yard game against the Bengals this season with 109 on top of the 116 he had back in September.
Matt Stover kicked a 38-yard field goal with 2:28 left in the first quarter for a 3-0 lead after Lewis gouged the Bengals for 59 rushing yards on his first six carries.
The Bengals struggled right away on offense. Dillon managed just 21 yards on nine carries in the first half with his longest gain eight yards. And when Dillon did get gains of more than four yards, there were penalties.
The Bengals' passing game continued to be in a deep freeze. Smith was eight of 12 for just 46 yards in the half.
On the morning of his sixth game, LeBeau continued his quest to shake up the lineup no matter the name.
Former first round-pick Reinard Wilson was inactive Sunday. For the second straight week, Bengals fullback Clif Groce's sprained anterior cruciate ligament in his knee put him on the inactive list.
Wilson has struggled finding a role since being taken with the 14th pick out of Florida State. He's played mostly on passing downs this season after moving full-time to defensive end from linebacker.
The Bengals have been getting more of a pass rush from linebackers Steve Foley and Adrian Ross when they move to defensive end in passing situations. Wilson has no sacks this season and has just three since posting a career-high six sacks in 1998.
The Wilson benching meant defensive tackle Tom Barndt was activated after sitting two games trying to strengthen his torn bicep.
The Bengals went with one-back, double tight-end sets a lot in Cleveland last week when Groce didn't dress last week. But when he did play, backup fullback Nick Williams got high marks for blocking on a day running back Corey Dillon rushed for 137 yards.
But the Bengals need all the help they can get against the Ravens' No. 1 rush defense, which is allowing just 68 yards per game.
Also inactive for the Bengals Sunday was wide receiver Damon Griffin.