Ravens overcome mistakes to thwart Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Instead of bringing the Baltimore Ravens down,
the young guys are giving them some late-season hope.

Question on the Bengals: Is it a lack of confidence, bad play-calling or inferior talent which causes Cincy's inability to execute in the final minute?
It's a mental obstacle more than anything else. The Bengals' organization is in a serious funk, and I'm not sure what can get them out of it. They need someone like a Michael Vick to get them back on track psychologically.

Question on the Ravens: What's your impression of their young players this season?
They're playing like young players -- sometimes playing well and sometimes inconsistently. TE Todd Heap has impressed me the most of their young guys. What the Ravens have going for them in the leadership of MLB Ray Lewis. Even though he's injured, Lewis is the leader of that unit. The Ravens' people tell me that he's still having a huge impact, despite his forced absence on the field.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Rookies Chad Williams and Ron Johnson scored touchdowns on
returns, and a defense missing Ray Lewis held on at the end for a
27-23 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

The Ravens (6-6) opened the season with 19 first-year players on
the roster, the fallout from salary-cap problems that gutted a
Super Bowl team. Injuries to Lewis and others dropped them out of
contention at midseason.

Heading down the stretch, the newcomers are reviving the playoff

"The older guys are doing the big things, and the younger guys
are trying to figure out where we fit in,'' said Johnson, a
fourth-round pick. "You never want to give up on the playoffs. You
never want to lose that hope.''

The kids rallied the Ravens after they fell behind by two

Williams stepped in front of Corey Dillon and intercepted Jon Kitna's pass, returning it 98 yards with 19 seconds left in the
first half, slipping through the quarterback's desperate attempt at
a tackle.

"I was just being patient,'' Williams said. "When I made the
pick, I wasn't thinking 98 yards; I was just looking at Kitna. I
didn't know how far 98 yards was.''

Kitna opened the game by completing his first 10 passes, leading
the Bengals to a quick 13-0 lead. But his throw directly to
Williams changed the momentum.

"That was a miscommunication,'' said Kitna, who was 30-of-46
for 308 yards and also had a pivotal fumble. "I thought Corey was
turning out, and he was playing off his man and turning in.''

Williams also blocked Nick Harris' punt early in the fourth
quarter, deflecting the ball to Johnson on one bounce. He ran 22
yards unchallenged, cutting the Bengals' lead to 23-21.

"I have the Lord to thank for that one,'' Williams said. "The
ball could have taken any kind of bounce, but it bounced straight
up to me.''

The Ravens then pulled it out by taking advantage of the
Bengals' customary pratfalls.

Kitna bumped into Dillon as he dropped to pass, causing a
fumble. Eleven plays later, Jeff Blake eluded a rush and threw a
22-yard touchdown pass to Todd Heap for a 27-23 lead.

"It's unbelievable,'' Heap said. "From what we've been through
this season, to get back to .500 and have the opportunity to
improve on that in the last four games, that's huge. And we're
supposed to be in a rebuilding year.''

The Bengals (1-11) are in another dreadful year because they
just can't pull out wins out at the end. In their last three home
games, the Bengals have had a chance for a go-ahead touchdown in
the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Against Tennessee, Dillon tripped over his blocker and came up
inches short of the goal line. Cleveland twice stopped Dillon from
the 1-yard line at the same spot on the field, clinching a win.

Heading toward the same end zone Sunday, the Bengals got to the
13-yard line before Kitna completed a 3-yard pass and had three
others knocked away. Adalius Thomas batted down his fourth-down
pass with 28 seconds left.

"We could have won several games, and there were times when we
had this one won,'' coach Dick LeBeau said. "It does hurt more as
you go on. This team deserves better.''

Returning to the city where he was a Pro Bowl passer in the
1990s, Blake went 10-of-19 for 115 yards and a pair of touchdown
passes. Jamal Lewis ran for 121 yards, extending his streak to four
straight 100-yard games against Cincinnati, which has fallen to
1-11 for the fourth time in franchise history.

"I thought we had this one sewed up,'' receiver Chad Johnson
said. "But you know, it's the same story every week.''

Game notes
Williams' interception return matched the Ravens record.
Chris McAlister also returned one 98 yards against the Jets in
2000. ... Lewis went over 1,000 yards for the second time in his
career. He had 1,364 as a rookie in 2000 but missed last season
with a torn knee ligament. ... Ravens rookie WR Javin Hunter played
but didn't catch a pass. He confirmed that he tested positive for
ephedra early in the season, but he has appealed his four-game
suspension. ... Dillon became the fourth player to top 1,000 yards
rushing in each of his first six seasons. Barry Sanders, Eric
Dickerson and Curtis Martin also did it. ... Bengals S Lamont Thompson sprained his neck in the second half.


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