Ravens' secondary endures Palmer's passing barrage

CINCINNATI - The Baltimore Ravens' secondary endured the slow torture of Carson Palmer throwing underneath their zone and regularly peppering the sidelines for first downs.

By the time the Cincinnati Bengals' first-year quarterback finished launching a career-high 52 passes in his first game against Baltimore, the Ravens made him pay with three interceptions in a 23-9 victory Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Palmer generated 316 passing yards, but Cincinnati was limited to three Shayne Graham field goals.

"It was just a matter of me doing my job, staying where I was supposed to be," said Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, who intercepted Palmer twice for 90 yards of returns. "All the guys were jamming and re-routing them. They were really just overthrows and us being in the right place at the right time. We just ran our defense."

Palmer completed 25 passes, including eight for 99 yards to Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson and seven for 116 to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. However, his longest completion was 23 yards to Johnson as Baltimore was much more disciplined in its assignments compared to the first two games of the season.

"When you throw the ball that many times, you're supposed to get 400 or 500 yards," said cornerback Gary Baxter, who led Baltimore with 10 tackles while deflecting two passes. "What he got was still too much."

Although Johnson occasionally turned franchise player Chris McAlister around, he never struck deep.

Plus, Palmer was harassed into mistakes as Baltimore sacked him four times and forced one fumble.

"I think it affected him," said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who sacked Palmer twice.

Now, Reed has 14 interceptions in 34 career games.

"It was just a matter of our guys giving great pressure," Reed said. "You either have to get rid of the ball or take the sack."

Palmer tried both options with little reward in terms of the scoreboard. Yet, the former Heisman Trophy Award winner and top overall pick in last year's draft did flash a strong arm and a bright future.

"That was not his best football game," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Carson Palmer is a much better football player than what he showed."

SAMS' SHOWING: Return specialist B.J. Sams recovered from a rough start to turn in his longest return.

The undrafted rookie from McNeese State lost a fumble in the first quarter on a hit by linebacker Marcus Wilkins, but Ray Walls recovered. Two punts later, Sams ripped off a career-high 63-yard return by reversing field to the Bengals' 8 to set up a Kyle Boller touchdown run.

"I saw the hole and I made one person miss," Sams said.

Sams finished with four punt returns for 84 yards, a 21.0 average with three kickoff returns for an 18.3 average. He also muffed a fourth-quarter punt, but recovered it.

"It just slipped out," Sams said. "No, it won't be an issue at all."

PATIENCE REWARDED: For Jamal Lewis, it was a long wait between 100-yard games.

The Pro Bowl rusher rambled for a league-high 2,066 yards last season, but hadn't surpassed the century mark this season.

"It was time," Lewis said. "I'm a patient guy. I just wait for things to unfold."

PENALIZED: Linebacker Ray Lewis drew a 15-yard penalty for hitting Palmer in the head after a throw. Lewis said he led with his shoulder, not his helmet.

"The quarterback needs to learn to slide," Lewis said. "If they don't, they're free game."

STREAKING: While he's not known for having great sprinting ability, Randy Hymes (four catches, 61 yards), ran away from the Bengals on a 38-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

"They used to sleep on Jerry Rice's speed, too," said Hymes, who has 12 catches for 124 yards and Baltimore's lone touchdown reception.

TRAINING ROOM: Linebacker T.J. Slaughter and fullback Ovie Mughelli left the game with hamstring injuries and didn't return.

INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated nickel back Deion Sanders (hamstring) with Ray Walls taking his place along with center Mike Flynn (broken collarbone), linebacker Roderick Green, offensive tackle Ethan Brooks (knee), tight end Todd Heap (ankle), receiver Travis Taylor (groin), defensive end Dwan Edwards and nose guard Kelly Gregg (knee).

QUICK HITS: The Bengals were penalized for having 12 men in the huddle. After the 5-yard penalty, the Bengals lined up with only 10 players and called a timeout to get organized. … Fullback Alan Ricard gained a first down on 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter, continuing a perfect streak on dive plays. … Rookie receivers Devard Darling (two catches, 5 yards) and Clarence Moore (one for 6 yards) caught their first NFL passes.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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