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News » Ravens need sweep of Bengals to stay in race

Ravens need sweep of Bengals to stay in race

Ravens need sweep of Bengals to stay in race
CINCINNATI (AP) - As strange as it sounds, Willie Anderson has fond memories of this place.

Not winning memories, of course. During his 12 seasons with the Bengals, the Pro Bowl right tackle experienced only one winning record. There were a lot of losing days, but a lot of poignant moments as well as he developed into one of the game's best linemen.

For instance, the time he commandeered a shovel from the grounds crew to illustrate coach Marvin Lewis' adage a few years back that the Bengals (1-9-1) needed to focus on digging themselves out of their long-standing mess.

"The feelings will probably come upon me once I land in Cincinnati and once I get into the visitors' locker room," Anderson said. "I'm going to have to get there and go find the groundskeeper guys so I can find my shovel. I want my shovel."

The rest of his new teammates don't need any digging implements. The Baltimore Ravens (7-4) just need a win.

They haven't had many good times at Paul Brown Stadium, where they've dropped their last three games. Baltimore won the season opener at home 17-10, which marked quarterback Joe Flacco's rookie debut, and has a chance to finish its first season sweep of Cincinnati since 2002.

The Ravens need it. Pittsburgh beat the Bengals 27-10 last week to keep its one-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North's two-team race for the division title. Now, it's Baltimore's turn to beat up on the lowly.

"They always, always play us hard," safety Ed Reed said. "We know that they're not going to lay it down. They haven't laid it down. So, we've got to come out and do the things that we've been doing - get after these guys and try to do our best about letting us get our hands on them."

The first time they played, the Bengals' offense got manhandled.

Even with Carson Palmer at quarterback, Cincinnati managed only 154 yards and eight first downs, two of them by penalty. Cincinnati's only touchdown came on a fumble return. And, in one respect, it was a high point of the season. Chad Ocho Cinco caught one pass for 22 yards, which stands as his longest reception of the season.

"We play them twice a year every year, but the wrinkles they throw at you are so complicated and different," Ocho Cinco said. "If you miss one person, it can really mess you up. The defense is very, very confusing."

This time, it will face an offense that seems utterly confused about how to move forward. With Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for the injured Palmer the last six games, the Bengals have been held to 14 or fewer points all but once, dropping them to last in the league's rankings for offense.

Fitzpatrick's goal: Try not to throw the ball to Reed, who had a 107-yard interception return and two interceptions overall during a 36-7 win over Philadelphia last week. Reed reminds Fitzpatrick of Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu, who also has a lot of freedom to roam the secondary.

"And he's harder to find because he doesn't have that long hair like Polamalu," Fitzpatrick said. "But he's a guy that you have to know where he is at all times. As you saw last week when they played the Eagles, he's a special player. And I'll do my best not to throw him the ball."

While the Bengals' passing game has disintegrated, the Ravens' has gotten better as Flacco has gotten acclimated to the NFL. He went 15-of-29 for a modest 129 yards in his debut against the Bengals, but didn't make any glaring mistakes. He also scrambled 38 yards on a broken play for a touchdown.

In the last six games, Flacco has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,152 yards with nine touchdowns, only two interceptions and a passer rating of 95.2, well above average. It's no coincidence the Ravens have won five of those six games, keeping them in the playoff chase.

To Flacco, it hasn't felt like the typical first-year grind.

"We've gotten to Week 12 pretty fast," Flacco said. "I can't say I remember Cincinnati - playing against them - like it was yesterday, but getting to this point has definitely felt pretty fast."

This time, he'll be facing a defense drained by injuries. The Bengals put cornerback Johnathan Joseph and defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers on injured reserve after the game against Pittsburgh. Cincinnati's offense also has been sapped, with left tackle Levi Jones and left guard Andrew Whitworth hurt.

The only thing working in the Bengals' favor: Cincinnati's win (over Jacksonville) and its tie (with the Eagles) both came at home over teams that needed a victory to stay in contention.

"They ain't going to just come in here and think that it's going to be easy," Bengals offensive guard Bobbie Williams said. "If they do, then they're going to be in for a rude awakening, plain and simple."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 28, 2008

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Ed Reed Name: Ed Reed
Position: S
Age: 29
Experience: 7 years
College: Miami (FL)
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