What energizes the Ravens even more is they lost to the Bengals six weeks ago. It was a game in which the Ravens believe they gave away 17 points on three turnovers by rookie quarterback Kyle Boller (two fumbles and one interception). "Going in the first game, our mindset was, 'It's going to be the same old Bengals.' We should go in there and win," linebacker Peter Boulware said. "Now, our mindset is, 'This is a great football team.' It's not a team that you can beat by not doing anything. You have to go in there and be prepared, focused. Hopefully, if we do that, we can come out on top."
Focus could play a big part in the game's outcome. The Bengals haven't played in an important game in December since 1990. And the Ravens only have 13 players who were part of their last playoff run. "There's going to be a lot of stress put on this game," tight end Todd Heap said. "I think we, as a team, have always been able to handle that type of thing and keep focused on what we want to do and try to get accomplished. We just need to continue to do that this week. We can't worry about what everybody is building it up to be."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES --CB Gary Baxter has officially moved permanently from free safety to cornerback, coach Brian Billick said. His speed and physical play is an improvement over the injured Corey Fuller.
--CB Corey Fuller will be limited to 30-35 snaps as the nickel back. Hamstring and groin injuries have slowed him down. He will be replaced by Gary Baxter.
--DE Anthony Weaver is expected to return to the starting lineup after sitting out with a neck injury. He is a vital cog to the run defense and pass rush.
--ILB Ray Lewis had his thumb taped after injuring it Sunday. The injury is not considered to limit him in practice.
--FS Will Demps will remain the starter as Gary Baxter moves to cornerback. Demps is solid in run support but has been slow in reacting to deep pass plays.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody in the country is excited that Cincinnati has a team that has this viability. We can't let that distract us. If we're fortunate to win, we're just going to be those bad Baltimore bullies again that are killing this great national story." -- Coach Brian Billick on playing the rejuvenated Cincinnati Bengals.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Anthony Wright was productive rather than prolific. He threw two touchdown passes and made an impressive 17-yard scramble. His two longest throws -- 38 and 33 yards -- were to his favorite target, Marcus Robinson. Wright's three miscues (two fumbles and interception) cost the Ravens a field goal. The pass protection against a heavy blitzing San Francisco defense was sound, giving up one sack.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Jamal Lewis was held under 100 yards for the fourth time in 12 games. It was still a profitable day as a $1.9 million incentive clause was triggered by going over 1,400 yards. He did most of his damage on the Ravens' first touchdown drive, running for 30 yards on three carries. After that, Lewis was limited to 48 yards on his final 16 attempts (3.0-yard average). It was an underachieving day considering the 49ers' undersized line and banged-up linebacking corps.
PASS DEFENSE: A-plus -- The pass defense bounced back after a porous effort against Seattle by picking off a season-best four passes. Those interceptions led to 24 points. The secondary took San Francisco's receivers out of the game. Of the 49ers' 17 completions, 12 went to tight ends and running backs. All three of Owens' catches came against the Ravens' zone defense. Their pass rush didn't register a sack but it did force some hurries from quarterback Jeff Garcia.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The running back duo of Kevan Barlow and Garrison Heart was effective early and finished with 95 total rushing yards. But the Ravens forced them to grind it out by limiting them to 4.1 yards per carry. Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware combined for another fourth-down stand at midfield in the third quarter, which led to a Ravens field goal. Lewis had 18 tackles and underrated nose tackle Kelly Gregg had seven.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Ravens kicker Matt Stover has converted 18 straight field goals this season after converting from 28, 47 and 41 yards. The Ravens won the field-position battle by averaging 40.3 yards on kickoffs and 11 yards on punts. Ravens kickoff specialist Wade Richey's first six attempts all went inside the 7-yard line including his 12th touchback of the season. Lamont Brightful returned a kickoff 75 yards to set up a field goal. A facemask on Brightful on a punt return near the end of the first half led to a late touchdown. Adalius Thomas made four special teams tackles.
COACHING: B -- The Ravens did not let down for a game sandwiched between an emotional comeback win against Seattle and a first-place showdown with Cincinnati. Brian Billick had his team focused enough to record the biggest rout in team history. The defense was prepared for the short passing game of the 49ers and the offense was efficient in the red zone against an extremely fast San Francisco defense.