Red, White and Blue upset

9-23-01, 4:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals and Ravens played a furious game of keep-away from their own offenses as Sunday's game went grinding into the fourth quarter.

And when it was over, the Bengals were hugging their biggest win in a decade like it was one of Baltimore's six turnovers in an old-fashioned 21-10 red-white-and-blue upset at flag festooned Paul Brown Stadium.

Fittingly, Bengals outside linebacker Takeo Spikes delivered the fatal blow. He tipped Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac's pass to himself and went 66 yards for a touchdown that left the Super Bowl champions reeling from their fifth turnover with 6:04 left in the game before a crowd roaring the derisive chant of "Elvis, Elvis."

And fittingly, the game ended when safety Cory Hall grabbed Baltimore's sixth turnover on Grbac's fumble at the goal line,

The Bengals, 2-0 for the first time since 1995, came so close to pulling away before that. The Ravens trailed just 14-10 with 8:10 left in the game when Bengals kicker Neil Rackers missed his third-field goal try of the game on a 45-yarder.

The Ravens made a Bengals' turnover hurt in the third quarter when Peter Warrick dropped a punt at his own 17 and Grbac threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Johnson early in the fourth quarter to make it 14-10.

The Bengals' exhaustive defense stunned the Ravens by forcing two turnovers in the first three minutes of the second half and translated them into touchdowns to help Cincinnati take a 14-3 lead at the end of the third quarter.

And it could have been more, but the Bengals couldn't cash Darnay Scott's 41-yard catch when Neil Rackers pushed a 39-yard field goal try to the right in the last minute of the third quarter.

And it could have been even more. Scott actually broke the 41-yarder for a touchdown, but when the celebration hug looked up field, they saw the play being waved back because Scott stepped on the sideline as he cut back to the middle of the field.

The Bengals, who came into the second half 0-for-6 on third down, picked up their first three conversions on the drives of 18 and 33 yards.

Quarterback Jon Kitna ended the first drive by hitting running back Corey Dillon on a one-yard pass off a fake handoff to sweeping wide receiver Peter Warrick and finished off the second by scoring on a two-yard quarterback draw.

Bengals linebacker Canute Curtis stripped Patrick Johnson of the ball
on the opening kickoff and the Bengals overcame a holding call on Warrick to get the score.

Then the Bengals, who had just one touchdown against the Ravens in the last three meetings, scored minutes later when linebacker Steve Foley dislodged tight end Todd Heap from the ball and it was recovered by cornerback Rodney Heath at the Baltimore 33.

Kitna then hit Warrick on a roll-out pass to convert a third down and later hit tight end Marco Battaglia for 17 more yards to set up his touchdown.

Dillon had just 57 yards on 18 carries against a Raven defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since 1998. But Kitna got the ball to the people he needed, hitting 19 of 30 passes for 154 yards.

On a day that was supposed to belong to the Ravens' history-making defense, the Bengals' defense stole Baltimore's Super Bowl thunder in a first half Cincinnati limited the Ravens less to four yards per their 39 plays.

The Ravens led at halftime, 3-0, but their 17-play drive got stymied with 1:35 left in the second quarter when middle linebacker Brian Simmons got the Bengals' first turnover of the season on a tipped pass in the end zone and brought it out to the Bengals 3.

The Bengals then got rescued a few plays later when rookie punter Nick Harris drove a 51-yarder while standing in the back of the end zone. Defensive end Reinard Wilson and tackle Glen Steele then combined to sack quarterback Elvis Grbac to end the half.

The Bengals, who held the Ravens to 20 yards rushing in the first half, had to overcome two penalties by outside linebacker Takeo Spikes inside the 10-yard-line when he was called for roughing Grbac and then for holding receiver Travis Taylor on a third-down pass.

But Spikes came back to tip the pass to Simmons after it was first batted by cornerback Rodney Heath and safety Cory Hall.

The Bengals made clear their intentions right away against Baltimore's record-setting defense.

They passed on their first six plays of the game and seven times on their first nine in an effort to get the Ravens off Dillon's back.

The ploy began to work on the series after the Ravens took a 3-0 lead on Matt Stover's 38-yard field goal with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

With the Bengals running Dillon out of spread formations, the Ravens had trouble stopping him in their pass packages and he racked up 33 yards on his first five carries against a defense that gave him just 32 yards in two games last season.

And with Kitna's 13-yard throw to Scott and his flip to fullback Lorezo Neal, the Bengals had the ball on the Baltimore 21.

But on a first-down pass, outside linebacker Jamie
Sharper blitzed untouched and sacked Kitna to kill the touchdown drive. Then the Bengals got nothing out of it as Rackers missed his first field goal of the season when he hooked a 43-yard field-goal attempt to the left.

Kitna was victimized on drops by Warrick and tight end Battaglia and the Bengals started the game with three three-and-out series.

The Cincinnati defense gave the Ravens nothing early and it was

a good thing because Chris McAlister returned a punt 24 yards.

But the Bengals were up to it. Grbac hit seven receivers on his first seven throws in the game's first 18 minutes, but the Bengals stopped him on four of his first five third-down tries. Linebacker Steve Foley blitzed him out of the pocket on one third down and a blitz by Spikes forced the Ravens to go for Stover's field goal.

The Bengals took the field under Super Bowl conditions and it just wasn't because they were playing the reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Fans were greeted by bomb-sniffing dogs at the gates while an expanded force of city and county police officers roamed PBS in beefed-up security measures as the NFL got back to work for the first time since Sept. 11.

Victims of the attacks and heroes of the rescues were honored in a patriotic pre-game ceremony as fans chanted "USA, USA." The highlight was Bon Jovi's singing of "God Bless America" on the end-zone scoreboards as he was accompanied by the Manhattan police and fire departments.

The Bengals also knew it was a speical day. After the starting defense was introduced, several Bengals sprinted into the end zone opposite their locker room to implore the fans. Some then knelt on one knee in the end zone.

The Bengals caught a break before the game when

the Ravens relegated dangerous punt returner Jermaine Lewis to the sidelines with an injury.

Lewis, who set an NFL record last season with a 16.1-yard average, was on the inactive list.

For the second straight game, so were Bengals' receivers Danny Farmer and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. That may have been a slight surprise because that left Cincinnati with just four wide receivers in a game the Bengals figured to try some three- and four-receiver sets.

With rookie defensive end Justin Smith ready for his first NFL action Sunday, defensive end Jevon Langford was also inactive. Smith will probably come off the bench to relieve starting right end Reinard Wilson and he will get his most work on passing downs.

Left end Vaughn Booker might only play on passing downs with his bruised thigh, which meant Bernard Whittington ended up starting for him and will probably play in Booker's spot in the base defense.

The Bengals took the field under Super Bowl conditions and it just wasn't because they were playing the reigning Super Bowl champions.

Fans were greeted by bomb-sniffing dogs at the gates while an expanded force of city and county police officers roamed Paul Brown Stadium in beefed-up security measures as the NFL got back to work for the first time since Sept. 11.

Victims of the attacks and heroes of the rescues were honored in a patriotic pre-game ceremony highlighted by Bon Jovi's singing of "God Bless America" on the end-zone scoreboards as he was accompanied by the Manhattan police and fire departments.

The Bengals also knew it was a speical day. After the starting defense was introduced, several Bengals sprinted into the end zone opposite their locker room to implore the fans. Some then knelt on one knee in the end zone.

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