AFC North: Bengals-Ravens 101109

Bengals win for 'Coach Zim'

October, 11, 2009
AP Photo/Gail Burton
The Bengals came through with an emotional victory in memory of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s wife Vikki.

Posted by's James Walker

BALTIMORE -- Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers called Mike Zimmer "amazing."
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Safety Chris Crocker said it was unbelievable how much his defensive coordinator showed he cared about the team just by showing up for Sunday's game.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis also carried a heavy heart and said there were no words to describe the emotion of what his team had just overcome.

It was yet another intriguing Sunday in "Bengaldom" as Cincinnati took sole possession of first place in the AFC North with a 17-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

The game marked the fifth consecutive thriller for the Bengals (4-1). But the big win was only a backdrop for the heartbreaking situation involving Zimmer, whose wife, Vikki, passed away late Thursday.

Zimmer certainly didn’t have to be in Baltimore Sunday.

According to Lewis, Zimmer went back and forth before choosing to travel with the team. The decision worked out well as Zimmer called a terrific game and the Bengals picked up their biggest win of the season.

"Man, it just lifted guys up," Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph said of Zimmer’s presence. "Once we saw him in practice Saturday morning and knew that he was going with us, it was unbelievable the feeling I had in my stomach."

An emotional Zimmer, who declined to be interviewed Sunday, brought three members of his family to Baltimore to help console him. Zimmer also told the team afterward how much Vikki cared about the Bengals and that, "She’s up there now in heaven smiling at you."

The Bengals certainly played as if they were inspired.

Zimmer’s defense held Baltimore’s high-powered offense scoreless for three-and-a-half quarters. Cincinnati’s offense also contributed 403 total yards, which included an 80-yard drive in the final 2:15 to win the game. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer connected with receiver Andre Caldwell for a 20-yard touchdown with 22 seconds left, which completely took the air out M&T Bank Stadium.

Cincinnati wasn’t perfect -- it had two turnovers and seven penalties. But you had the sense early the underdog Bengals weren’t intimidated by the hostile environment and, eventually, wouldn’t be denied.

"We are prepared for anything," Crocker said of the Bengals’ toughness. "Yes, this was sad. But it was also uplifting because we had a purpose."

Emotionally charged, Cincinnati looked a step or two faster on defense.

The Ravens couldn’t get anything going as the Bengals took away most of the big plays. Cincinnati also made second-year quarterback Joe Flacco look shaky for the first time this season, as he threw for 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Bengals tailback Cedric Benson rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown to keep the game within reach. He broke an NFL-best 39-game streak for Baltimore of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. Palmer also stood tall in the pocket and hit receivers Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry for a combined 10 catches and 186 yards.

Despite trailing in the final period and needing another late comeback, Cincinnati outplayed Baltimore in most major statistical categories. If the Bengals weren’t considered contenders before, they certainly are now.

In the process of getting a win for “Coach Zim,” the Bengals also set themselves up nicely with a 3-0 start in the AFC North. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Bengals are the first team since the merger to win three consecutive division games by three points or fewer. Cincinnati now has quality wins over three teams with .500 records or better in the Ravens (3-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) and Green Bay Packers (2-2).

Cincinnati entered this season confident, but many pundits were taking a wait-and-see approach.

But currently for the Bengals, seeing is believing.

"A big reason why we play this game is to get respect," Rivers said. "This is the only sport where you can go out every down and earn somebody’s respect. So it’s a cool job in that way."

Rapid Reaction: Bengals 17, Ravens 14

October, 11, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

BALTIMORE -- The Cincinnati Bengals continue to take games down to the wire.

But when the game is on the line, it's usually Cincinnati -- not its opponent -- making all of the key plays this season.

The Bengals, one of the NFL’s biggest surprises, took over sole possession of first place in the AFC North Sunday with a 17-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals improved to 4-1, while the Ravens have lost two in a row to fall to 3-2.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer improved to 7-3 all-time against the Ravens with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell down the middle of the field for the winning TD. The crowd at M&T Bank Stadium was stunned as Cincinnati drove 80 yards for the decisive score. There were also some penalties called against Baltimore during the final drive that will surely be a topic of conversation this week.

Having already earned a win against every division team, the Bengals proved they are a team to be reckoned with this season.

Palmer has hurt thumb

October, 11, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

BALTIMORE -- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is playing hurt in the second half.

It was just announced that Palmer has a sprained left thumb, which is on his non-throwing hand.

The injury hasn’t slowed Palmer all that much in this game. The offense isn’t scoring many points but getting a lot of yards against Baltimore’s defense. The Bengals led 10-7 after three quarters.

Benson breaks Baltimore's streak

October, 11, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

BALTIMORE -- Cincinnati Bengals tailback Cedric Benson’s 28-yard touchdown run broke an impressive streak for the Baltimore Ravens.

Benson became the first 100-yard rusher the Ravens allowed in the past 40 games. During the week, Benson said that was one of his goals and he’s playing very well so far. His score gave the Bengals a 10-7 lead.

Both teams are running well, but Cincinnati also is moving the ball through the air. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown for 222 yards after three quarters.

Bengals-Ravens halftime notes

October, 11, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens (3-1) lead the Cincinnati Bengals (3-1), 7-3, at intermission.

After some technical difficulties in the first half, here are some halftime observations:
  • For a battle between two first-place teams, this game is off to a sloppy start. The first two drives ended in a blocked field goal for Cincinnati and an interception in the end zone for the Ravens. Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco also had a fumble deep in Ravens territory that could have led to points. The only touchdown in the game came from an Ed Reed interception return in the second quarter.
  • Keep an eye on Bengals tailback Cedric Benson. He is running very well in the first half against Baltimore’s defense, which hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 39 straight games. Benson is on pace to end that streak with 58 yards rushing on 15 carries at intermission.
  • Cincinnati’s pass protection has been very good for quarterback Carson Palmer. The Bengals have picked up most of Baltimore’s pressures, particularly on third down. And Palmer is doing just enough scrambling to avoid the rush. The Ravens have one sack in the first half.
  • The Ravens' offense hasn't looked in sync in the first half. Quarterback Joe Flacco is completing only short passes, and outside of the first drive, Baltimore is not moving the ball much downfield. The Bengals are doing a good job of pressuring Flacco and having the cornerbacks cover the receivers downfield. The Ravens are running well but not running enough. Baltimore tailback Ray Rice is averaging 6.6 yards per carry.