Posted: 5 a.m.
John Thornton shook his head after it was done. After being on the field for 38:58, he had just been sent a timely message in the Bengals' historically bad 34-3 loss.
"It was a bad feeling out there," Thornton said. "We were fighting, scratching, but it didn't seem to matter. We were out there too long. The numbers weren't good. They had explosive passing plays. They kind of had us in a good spot. They knew we were undermanned. They threw the playbook at us. We wore out big time at the end of the game. Everybody's hurt. We've got half the team in the training room."
This theme started on Opening Day against these Ravens and it played through Sunday to one of the ugliest games in Bengals history.
"The defense played well," said right guard Bobbie Williams. "We didn't; they rubbed our face in it."
The defense tried to save face even though it had five Opening Day starters on injured reserve from the lineup that held the Ravens to 17 points Sept. 7. Two more key players on third down, end Antwan Odom (shoulder) and third cornerback David Jones (knee), were inactive. When the coaches looked at one third-down snap from the opener, there were just four players left for this week.
But the Bengals still held the Ravens without a touchdown until 3:06 left in a first half the defense was on the field for 21 of the 30 minutes against an offense averaging more than 30 points per game in the last seven games. With the offense gaining a club-record low six first downs on nine three-and-outs, the Ravens were able to finish the game with 43 runs and the Bengals responded by holding them to 3.5 yards per carry.
The Bengals were without four defensive ends and four defensive backs, but the DB the Ravens ended up burning and blowing open the game in a three-minute span of the third quarter with two big touchdown passes was the lone regular starter, cornerback Leon Hall, a guy that has been having a solid year.
Like wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh keeps saying after every game, "It's a weird year."
Hall got fooled on wide receiver Mark Clayton's 32-yard touchdown pass off a reverse to wide-open wide receiver Derrick Mason with 8:12 left in the third quarter and 2:09 later Clayton ran by him for a 70-yard touchdown bomb from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco down the right sideline to make it 27-3.
"It's my worst game of the year," Hall admitted. "I don't think like that. Regardless of injuries, who's playing, who's not playing, who's up, who's down, you still have to play and you have to get 11 guys out there and still fight. It was a rough day ... I need to go look at the film, check it out, and see what I can do better. Indianapolis is going to look at that and I've got to try to come back and have a great game next week."
In the first half, Flacco riddled that new third-down alignment on 6-of-7 passing for 157 yards on passes of 45, 33 and 23 yards. But in the third quarter, Hall got beat twice on second down even though the defense had seen the razzle-dazzle back in the opener when Clayton ran a reverse for a 42-yard touchdown.
Clayton, who had caught just one touchdown pass in the past two seasons, then got by Hall on the bomb as he used his hands to chicken fight past him and made a nice stretch catch in stride.
"I was in good position early. He got on top of me at the end and six points later it was a bad play by me," Hall said. "I felt like I was in good position early. As we got down the field my position got worse. It's one of those plays (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) says stay on top of it and make a play."
In the first half on third down, Flacco hit Clayton running past Hall for a 45-yard play down the left sideline in which Hall had good coverage but it was one of those plays where Flacco made a great throw and Clayton made an even better fingertip catch to set up a field goal. With No. 4 cornerback Jamar Fletcher and rookie Simeon Castille taking the bulk of the snaps at the other corner spots, Hall said he wasn't surprised the Ravens were going after him.
"I never think like that," Hall said. "I always think they're going to throw to my side. If you think they're going to throw to the other side, you get too relaxed and that makes it worse."
Thornton said a lot of Baltimore's big throws came out of maximum pass protection formations that are so hard to blitz with a couple of tight ends and fullbacks staying in to block while two receivers run routes. But he says the injuries haven't altered the calls or what the defense is trying to do.
"I don't think I see a difference in the play-calling," Hall said. "We may not match up more than if we were 100 percent healthy, but the calls are pretty much the same. Regardless of the call you have to make the play if it comes your way."