5 Reasons for the Ravens' win over the Bengals

1. Dominated the line of scrimmage. Before the Baltimore Ravens put the finishing touches on a 31-13 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals that granted them sole possession of first place in the AFC North, Jamal Lewis' blockers paved a bunch of pathways for him.

On a frigid afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, the NFL rushing leader rumbled for 180 yards and a team-record three touchdowns on 30 carries. Now, he's on pace for 1,996 rushing yards for the season. Baltimore (8-5) capitalized almost every time the Bengals crowded the line with extra defenders, using center Mike Flynn and guards Edwin Mulitalo and Bennie Anderson to seal the middle off with fullback Alan Ricard kicking defensive ends and linebackers out of the holes on isolation plays. Tackles Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Brown contributed heavily, too. Lewis did the rest of the work, rolling downhill to win physical encounters with the Bengals' seemingly-timid linebackers and defensive backs. The zone blocking schemes of offensive line coach Jim Colletto were effective as the Ravens collected 223 bruising yards on 45 carries for an average of 5.3 per attempt. The Bengals looked discouraged, wounded and anything but formidable as Brian Billick won his 50th game and Baltimore set a franchise mark with its fifth consecutive home win. 

2. Shutting down the Bengals' passing game. Between the front seven surging for a game-high six sacks of Jon Kitna and double-team attention being paid toward Chad Johnson, Cincinnati's loquacious wideout, it was a long day for the Bengals. Kitna had tossed nine touchdowns with no interceptions in his previous three games. He was intercepted twice Sunday with only one score. Johnson had claimed he couldn't be covered by any defensive back in the league and urged Deion Sanders to end his retirement so he could face a worthy challenger. He only caught two passes for 15 yards. Kitna fumbled three times, losing two as outside linebackers Terrell Suggs, Peter Boulware and Adalius Thomas each sacked him twice. Forced to hurry his throws, Kitna was unable to adjust beyond dumping the football off for short passes to Peter Warrick. It didn't resemble the football team that had generated so much momentum and buzz in going 6-1 since defeating the Ravens in mid-October. 

3. Picked their spots downfield. This definitely wasn't Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright at his sharpest. He completed eight of his 19 passes for 145 yards, one score and tossed two interceptions to Kevin Kaesviharn. However, he was able to locate Marcus Robinson, his imposing former University of South Carolina teammate, on a fade route for a touchdown. Wright connected twice with Travis Taylor for 77 yards, including a 64-yard flare pattern up the right sidelines. 

4. Contained the Bengals' runners. Regardless of whether it was Corey Dillon, Brandon Bennett, Rudi Johnson or Jeremi Johnson carrying the football, the Ravens and linebacker Ray Lewis had answers. Collectively, the Bengals' running backs totaled only 100 yards on 21 carries and never breached the Ravens' end zone. 

5. Red-zone efficiency and disciplined play overall. Ranked last in the NFL at scoring inside opponents' 20-yard lines entering the contest, Baltimore scored touchdowns on four of its five trips in the red zone. The Ravens were flagged just twice for 20 yards. Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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