Bengals look to take control of division
CINCINNATI — Ray Lewis took aim and a delivered a jarring hit intended to do more than break up a pass. In his bruising style, the Ravens linebacker was trying to wrap up a win.
Didn’t work out that way.
When Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco — one of Lewis’ longtime friends — smacked the ground and lost his tiger-striped helmet, a yellow flag landed at the point of impact. The high hit drew a 15-yard penalty that aided Cincinnati’s drive for a last-minute touchdown and a 17-14 win in Baltimore last month.
Ochocinco wasn’t down for long, popping to his feet in a matter of seconds. By contrast, the Ravens (4-3) are the ones trying to get back up as they head into the rematch Sunday against the Bengals (5-2), who have a two-week window of opportunity to take control of the AFC North.
“They’ve got a lot on the line, but we’ve got a lot more on the line,” Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said.
Cincinnati’s win on Oct. 11 completed a stunning stretch. The Bengals ran off three straight wins over division opponents — Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore — by pulling out games with last-minute drives. In Baltimore, Palmer led the Bengals 80 yards with the help of three Ravens penalties that accounted for 30 yards and a couple of first downs.
When he found Andre Caldwell open for a 20-yard touchdown catch with 22 seconds left, the Bengals were atop the division. They can take control of it by beating the Ravens and then winning in Pittsburgh (5-2) next week, leaving them 5-0 in division play.
“I see this as a two-game season,” Ochocinco said, “from the standpoint that with a win this week and next week in Pittsburgh, it’s really setting us up for a playoff berth. And after that, continuing to win and be successful throughout the season could really give us a bye week.”
Ochocinco was referring to the playoffs, of course.
Baltimore knows it can’t let that happen if it wants to reach the playoffs again. The Bengals are rested, coming off their bye. The Ravens have their swagger back, coming off a 30-7 win over previously unbeaten Denver.