Ravens jump Bengals at half, 24-0

BY GEOFF HOBSON

In their worst display since Dick LeBeau became head coach, the mistake-riddled Bengals fell behind the Ravens, 24-0, at halftime.

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 half with 160 yards passing.

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 quarterback 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 half.

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 could do nothing on offense. Running back Corey Dillon managed just 21 yards on nine carries 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.

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.

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