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Baltimore finds end zone in Cincy

CINCINNATI – Give the defense an assist for the Baltimore Ravens’ most long-awaited touchdown of the season.

Monday, November 06, 2000

CINCINNATI – Give the defense an assist for the Baltimore Ravens’ most long-awaited touchdown of the season.

When Sam Adams burst through the line and hit Akili Smith during a handoff, the ball dribbled away and the Ravens’ no-touchdown streak was on its way to history.

The resulting 14-yard touchdown pass from Trent Dilfer to Brandon Stokley ended Baltimore’s streak of five games without a touchdown and provided the spark for a 27-7 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals.

”Offensively we played OK today,” said tight end Shannon Sharpe, who caught two more touchdown passes as the Ravens (6-4) had a breakout day. ”The defense is our backbone. It’s going to carry us. There’s no secret to that.”

The NFL’s top-ranked defense did all it could to carry the Ravens through one of the worst offensive slumps in modern NFL history. Since a 37-0 drubbing of the Bengals on Sept. 24, they’d played five games and failed to reach the end zone.

For 20 quarters, all they got were 15 field goals by Matt Stover. The stretch of futility reached 21 quarters when they headed into the second quarter Sunday leading 3-0 on Stover’s 38-yard kick.

”It was frustrating,” Dilfer said. ”We got down there and a (pass interference) penalty put us out of range and we had to kick the field goal.”

The Ravens tied the 1991 Colts’ mark of 21 quarters without a touchdown, the longest anyone has gone without reaching the end zone since the 1970 NFL merger. It looked like it was headed for 22 quarters – until the defense took over.

Adams cleanly broke through the Bengals’ line, hit Smith and forced a fumble deep that was recovered on the 16-yard line. Three plays later, the Ravens called ”H Angle Return” and Stokley got into the end zone, lunging inside the pylon for a 14-yard score that set off a celebration.

”We proved we can score a touchdown,” Sharpe said. ”That’s the biggest thing. When you don’t get into the end zone, you start to question yourself.”

The only question was how many more they’d score against the Bengals (2-7), a team that’s given up seven of their 13 touchdowns this season. Baltimore has won its last six games against Cincinnati, outscoring the Bengals 86-7 in the last three.

Dilfer threw touchdown passes of 18 and 19 yards to Sharpe on the Ravens’ next two possessions, padding the score to 24-0 at halftime.

”I wanted to get Shannon the ball,” said Dilfer, wearing a blue long-sleeve shirt with ”TD” sewn on the cuff. ”You’ve got to let your superstars win the game when you’re in a funk.”

After two wins, the Bengals were back in their funk. They missed tackles, botched coverages and looked a lot like the sad-sack team that was dominated in Baltimore six weeks earlier, prompting coach Bruce Coslet to quit.

The smallest crowd yet at Paul Brown Stadium – only 54,759 tickets were sold, roughly 10,000 below capacity – saw the offense go nowhere against the league’s top run defense.

Corey Dillon, who set a single-game record with 278 yards two weeks ago and had 415 yards in the last two games, was held to 23 on 16 carries. The Bengals’ only touchdown came in the third quarter on a trick play set up by a punt return.

Receiver Peter Warrick lined up behind center, took the snap and ran 4 yards around right end for a touchdown. Otherwise, the Bengals didn’t even come close.

”They brought a lot of people up to stop the run and it turned out to be pretty effective,” Dillon said. ”They designed it to stop the cutback runs.”

Notes: The Ravens went 60 possessions without a touchdown. … Sharpe’s two touchdowns gave him 48 for his career, moving him ahead of Ravens vice president Ozzie Newsome for fifth on the tight end list. … Stover had scored the Ravens’ last 49 points before Stokley’s TD. … Bengals linebacker Canute Curtis broke his left hand and is questionable for next week. … The Bengals have sold out only one of their five games at their new $453 million stadium.