AFCN Team Reports

A weekly look at team activity, notes, quotes and injuries for the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.

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BALTIMORE RAVENS
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INSIDE SLANT
The Ravens added speed to one of the slowest receiving corps in the NFL by signing Patrick Johnson.
A 1998 second-round pick by the Ravens, Johnson has bounced around the league because he never could catch the ball consistently. Still, his speed -- he once finished ahead of Carl Lewis in the 100 meters at the 1995 Drake Relays -- was one of the first things quarterback Kyle Boller noticed in practice Monday.
"I threw one pass to him and I was like, 'Woo, that guy is fast,'" Boller said.
The Ravens are hoping the addition of Johnson will make it easier to throw underneath to Todd Heap once the tight end returns from a sprained right ankle.
Johnson broke his hand during the preseason this year with the Bengals. He eventually reached an injury settlement with the team.
Johnson said he was running his consulting company over the past few weeks while waiting for his chance to get back into the NFL. The Ravens, though, don't expect him to play Sunday against Buffalo. His first action likely will come next week in Philadelphia.
"It's good to have Patrick back," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It gives us that deep threat that, in conjunction with our running game, hopefully we can stretch the defenses a little bit. We'll see how Patrick is feeling."
Just how the Ravens plan to use Johnson is not yet defined. Randy Hymes, Kevin Johnson and Travis Taylor will remain the top three receivers. Patrick Johnson has 24 catches over the previous two seasons.
"I've learned how to be a possession receiver coming from Jacksonville and playing with Jimmy Smith and being in (Steve) Spurrier's offense (in Washington)," Johnson said. "I know how to be a wide receiver more than a pure deep threat."

NOTES, QUOTES
--Tight end Todd Heap and center Mike Flynn both are not expected to start Sunday against Buffalo.
Heap has not practiced since spraining his right ankle in Week 2 and Flynn has been sidelined all season with a broken collarbone.
Flynn had an X-ray taken on his collarbone in the evening, and if all is well, he could be available in limited capacity for the game at Philadelphia on Oct. 31.
"I don't think he will be released for this week," coach Brian Billick said. "What the imaging, we believe, will tell us is that he is on target and will be ready to go when we play Philadelphia."
--During their bye, the Ravens held their first outdoor practice at their new training facility, a $31 million, 200,000-square-foot palace in Owings Mills that the team is billing as the best in the league.
"We went from the Holiday Inn to The Ritz," guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "This is first-class. Now we are up there with the other facilities in the league."
Actually, the Ravens' home may be even better. The highlights for the players were predictable. The lounge, featuring a pool table and a couple of Sony PlayStations, and the full-service cafeteria, which looked three times the size of their old mess hall, took top honors.
--WR Travis Taylor should start Sunday for the first time since aggravating his groin injury in the season opener. He has progressed well running full speed in practice.
--WR Patrick Johnson signed with the Ravens on Monday but will not play Sunday against Buffalo. He likely will play next week in Philadelphia. He provides speed to one of the slowest receiving corps in the NFL.
--RB Chester Taylor will receive 20 to 25 carries Sunday as he will start in place of Jamal Lewis, who is serving a two-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He has not carried the ball more than 10 times in a game in his three-year career.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD AFTER FIVE GAMES
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- The Ravens have the worst passing attack for the second straight season. Quarterback Kyle Boller has increased his accuracy to 56 percent but has been unable to stretch defenses with his arm. He has only two passes over 40 yards in the first five games. Some of the problems can be attributed to injuries. Tight end Todd Heap (sprained right ankle) has missed the past three games and receiver Travis Taylor (groin) has been hurt since the season opener. The only bright spot has been Randy Hymes, who has filled in for Taylor and has provided the only threat downfield with his size.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Not as dominant as last season, but the Ravens have the second-best ground game in the NFL. Jamal Lewis has been more inconsistent but is the team's most dependable offensive weapon. The offensive line wears on defenses especially in the fourth quarter. The left side of tackle Jonathan Ogden and guard Edwin Mulitalo can collapse defensive fronts. The Ravens run the ball an astounding 57 percent of the time.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Ravens are settling down in the secondary after a shaky start. They have cut down on the big plays and have communicated better the past three weeks. Strong safety Ed Reed remains the top playmaker whether he is picking off passes or hitting the quarterback on blitzes. Terrell Suggs is one of the NFL's top pass rushers and has five sacks this season. Cornerback Chris McAlister is still one of the top cover guys but hasn't shut down receivers as thoroughly as last season.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- Teams have had more success than last season, running right at inside linebacker Ray Lewis instead of away from him. But the Ravens are still giving up just 103.4 yards a game and 3.4 yards a carry. Suggs needs to improve on shedding blockers and inside linebacker Ed Hartwell has to play more aggressive. Only one running back (Kansas City's Priest Holmes) has cracked 100 yards against the Ravens this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Undrafted rookie B.J. Sams has been the surprise of the season. He leads the NFL with a 14.1-yard average on punt returns and has run back two for touchdowns. Kicker Matt Stover has converted on all seven of his field-goal attempts. Punter Dave Zastudil remains a disappointment, averaging 40.4 yards on his kicks.
COACHING: C-plus -- The Ravens are at 3-2 despite several key injuries. But two of their losses -- at Cleveland and against Kansas City -- were the result of the players overlooking the opponent. The players have lacked focus and discipline at times (three penalties for removing helmets on the field). The offensive game plan still is suspect as the Ravens have failed to improve their scheme passing-wise.


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CINCINNATI BENGALS
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INSIDE SLANT
Coach Marvin Lewis said Monday that he called a significant number of defensive plays during the game Sunday at Cleveland.
"Our guys were looking for something a little different," Lewis said. "Everyone wants to question what we're running. I took that question of doubt out of everybody's mind. It's not what is called, but how you execute what is called. I wanted to give the players a little heightened attention to that."
Defensive tackle John Thornton said he agreed with Lewis that responsibility rests with players.
"It doesn't matter who's calling the plays," said Thornton, signed by Lewis as a free agent in March 2003. "We've got to go out there and play."
Does Lewis' involvement mean defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is in trouble?
"We set up the game plan together," Lewis said of Frazier. "I just took a little more vocal role (Sunday) in what was called."
They are two of the three coaches on staff who have been or are defensive coordinators. The third is former Raiders coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, whose title is assistant coach with the Bengals.
Defensive players noticed Lewis' increased involvement Sunday but said it was what a coach should do.
"You're going to do that if you're the leader, right?" said safety Kevin Kaesviharn, who returned a fumble three yards for a touchdown. "Does it hurt us as players thinking who's in charge? Well, we know Marvin is in charge, and whatever he wants is what we'll do. Leslie knows the same thing."
In winning 34-17, the Browns amassed 449 yards of total offense, most allowed by the Bengals this season. The Bengals remain last in the NFL in run defense and dropped to 26th in overall defense. They are 29th in points allowed per game.

NOTES, QUOTES
-- The Bengals originally had pushed their weekly schedule back one day. The team was going to get Tuesday and Wednesday off in advance of the game Monday night against Denver. But after the performance Sunday in a 34-17 loss at Cleveland, coach Marvin Lewis added a Wednesday practice. No second off day this week.
-- Lewis and wide receiver Chad Johnson talked Monday afternoon at Johnson's locker. Lewis, looking back, wasn't thrilled with Johnson's prank of sending Pepto-Bismol stomach medicine to Browns defensive backs last week. (They would need it after he made them sick trying to cover him.)
"When you do something like that, it gives their players an added incentive to play better," Lewis said at his news conference. "Their defensive line and linebackers heightened their attention to detail in what they were doing to make sure they helped their defensive backs. You don't need to heighten their attention at any point."
Johnson said he agreed to tell Lewis in advance of any predictions, guarantees or pranks.
"I felt where he was coming," Johnson said. "I can't change me. Being me has made me successful. He said next time I have any ideas to make sure I come to him first."
Is he working up any ideas for the Monday night game?
"Nah, not after we lost," Johnson said. "(Lewis) said it this morning: Why not us? Why can't we go 12-4? Who knows what it going to happen?"
-- After five games, the Bengals are ranked 24th in total offense and 26th in defense.
The Bengals remained last in run defense, and the Broncos will bring the NFL's top-ranked rush offense to Cincinnati. Denver also has the league's first-ranked defense.
Looking ahead to Monday, Lewis said, "This week we play on Monday night, and it is the biggest stage in the NFL. We must go out and put together our best football. It's a good week to do it."
-- WR Peter Warrick is doubtful for Monday night against Denver because of a shin injury. His loss continues to hurt the offense, especially on third down and the red zone.
-- CB Rashad Bauman is doubtful for the Broncos because of an Achilles injury.
-- LB Marcus Wilkins, a special teams star, suffered a stinger and is questionable for Denver.
-- S Rogers Beckett, concussion, is out for next Monday night.
-- C Rich Braham played well in his return to the starting lineup, coach Marvin Lewis said.
-- CB Deltha O'Neal will start at cornerback Monday night against the coach, Mike Shanahan, who played him at wide receiver at the end of last season in Denver.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. BROWNS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Carson Palmer threw just one interception and did have a touchdown pass. Chad Johnson was limited to three catches and had three drops. The receivers dropped nine Palmer passes. Palmer is not the problem. The line could not pick up the blitz well. The receivers did not get open. Palmer is doing OK, considering he has little help. The loss of wide receiver Peter Warrick to shin and knee problems really hurts the offense.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- D, F, it really doesn't matter. It was terrible, too. Rudi Johnson was held to 57 of the team's grand total of 58 rushing yards. And the Bengals had their starting offensive line together again with the return of center Rich Braham.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- Three Browns pass plays accounted for 207 yards, including the 99-yard touchdown bomb from Jeff Garcia to Andre Davis. Tailback Lee Suggs had 100 receiving yards, including a 59-yard touchdown against painfully slow outside linebacker Kevin Hardy. The safeties did not get over to help at all. The Bengals had one sack on a Garcia scramble for no yards. The pressure is nearly non-existent.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Bengals allowed 139 yards on the ground, 70 on the go-ahead drive at the end of the first half when the Bengals most needed a stop.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The punting is inconsistent. Shayne Graham missed badly on a 44-yard field goal. The return teams pose no threat. The coverage teams were OK.
COACHING: D -- How could Marvin Lewis and his staff not have their team ready to play after the bye? The Bengals turned in their poorest performance in 21 games under Lewis against the barely mediocre Browns. Unforced alignment errors and false start penalties -- not to mention the delay of game on fourth and 2 -- plagued the offense. There were late hits by the defense. The team still does not tackle well. And Lewis utters the words that Dick LeBeau was ridiculed for two years ago: "The overriding concern is you put a lot of hard work in, and they are disappointed, and now they are going to get attacked (by the media)."


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CLEVELAND BROWNS
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INSIDE SLANT
The new-era Browns have never had a pure fullback until this year. The past three years under Butch Davis, they tried one-back sets and H-backs, but it wasn't the same.
Now they have a true fullback in Terrelle Smith, and they couldn't be happier.
In Cleveland's 34-17 victory over Cincinnati, William Green ran for 115 yards and Lee Suggs had 100 in receiving yards.
While Davis praised those two running backs, he gushed about Smith, signed as a free agent from New Orleans.
"The guy who deserves all the credit right now is Terrelle Smith," Davis said. "This guy is one terrific human being. He is a leader. He is tough. He brought a source of energy to the field today. He blew up linebackers, hit safeties. Those guys love playing behind him."
Suggs had a 59-yard touchdown catch. Davis said a blitz pickup by Smith made it possible.
Green ran for 66 yards on a 79-yard touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter. Smith was responsible for a lot of those yards.
One knocked Bengals linebacker Landon Johnson out of the game on a 9-yard Green carry.
"That was the hit of the day," tight end Aaron Shea said. "He smoked that linebacker. That's a true fullback right there."
Smith swooped over to the sideline with his arms extended like airplane wings as if he was ready to take off from nearby Burke Lakefront Airport.
Emotion is a big part of Smith's game. During the game, he approached teammates and implored them to touch him so they could feel his energy.
"To play this position, you have to be emotional," Smith said. "That's what it takes to play this position. With the pounding and the beating, it's like I'm in 40 car accidents a day."
Said Davis, "When we signed him," Davis said, "(Saints coach) Jim Haslett told me the first time I saw him, `You're going to love this kid, and all the intangibles he brings to your team.'"

NOTES, QUOTES
--Coach Butch Davis knows he flirted with disaster Sunday because of poor clock management at the end of the first half.
Facing third down at the Bengals' 5-yard line, the Browns waited until seven seconds remained to call timeout.
"We were trying to call timeout with 12 seconds to go, but we couldn't get the referee's attention," Davis said.
The mistake didn't cost the Browns because Jeff Garcia threw a touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Shea as time expired.
"The players bailed me out," Davis said. "Clearly, there'd have been a lot of negative applause from the stands. We would have looked foolish."
--The Eagles come to Cleveland this week, which will stoke the tension between Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia and Philadelphia receiver Terrell Owens, who had a tumultuous relationship in five years with San Francisco.
Owens has ripped Garcia, making insinuating comments about his sexuality in August and more recently criticizing him for a lack of arm strength.
Asked about Owens on Monday, Butch Davis inadvertently provided some material for Garcia bashers.
"This week we have a huge challenge with Terrell," Davis said. "This guy is a talented, talented playmaking football player. We've played him before, but not necessarily with the supporting cast.
"Donovan McNabb is a cat of a whole different nature. This guy is a playmaker. He scrambles. He's big. He's strong. He's hard to sack."
--Wide receiver Andre Davis, who had a 99-yard touchdown catch, left the game with what Butch Davis called a "version of turf toe."
"It's in the joint," the coach said. "They're going to do what they can do to try to calm it down. It got kind of swollen (Sunday), and he'll be day to day."
--Right guard Kelvin Garmon left the game twice with injuries. He got knocked out in the first half. He returned, but injured his quadriceps muscle in the second half and didn't come back from that.
"He's much better than I expected," Davis said. "They think he'll be ready to practice Wednesday."
--Left tackle Ross Verba injured his groin. He is listed as day to day.
--Linebacker Barry Gardner, who missed Sunday's game with a groin injury, is listed as week to week.
--Running back James Jackson was inactive for the third straight week. With the trade deadline Tuesday, he would welcome a trade.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Jeff Garcia threw two awful interceptions early when he overthrew receivers badly. But he rebounded nicely to throw for 310 yards, completing 16 of 23 passes for 310 yards. His biggest play was a 99-yarder to Andre Davis on a designed rollout. Davis got a step on the Bengal defender and that was all he needed. Garcia's two nicest throws were a 59-yard touchdown pass to Lee Suggs and a 5-yard fade pass to Aaron Shea in the corner of the end zone on the last play of the first half. Suggs had 100 yards in receptions. The offensive line did probably its best job this season in protecting Garcia, who was sacked only once for zero yards. The biggest problem with the passing game remains the paltry contributions by their starting receivers. Davis' only catch was the 99-yarder, though he missed the second half with a toe injury. Quincy Morgan had only one catch - a 10-yard touchdown reception.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- For a day at least, the Browns' running back tandem of William Green and Lee Suggs worked. While Suggs, who ran for 186 yards in the season finale last year against Cincinnati, had only 19 yards in 13 carries and had a fumble returned for a touchdown, Green had a big game. He ran for 115 yards in 25 carries. On the pivotal touchdown drive before halftime, Green ran for 66 yards. As it did in the passing game, the line had perhaps its best performance of the season against the Bengals. At times, the linemen simply overpowered their Bengals counterparts.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Browns didn't want Chad Johnson to have a big game, and Anthony Henry made sure he didn't. Henry bounced back from a poor performance at Pittsburgh when he allowed Plaxico Burress to beat him twice deep on Ben Roethlisberger scrambles. Against Johnson, Henry played almost flawlessly. He made a nice interception on a deep ball, wrestling the ball from Johnson as they rolled on the ground. Johnson dropped several passes, but almost all of them were with Henry in tight coverage. With Peter Warrick out, the Bengals lacked a dangerous second weapon. The longest completion was a 21-yarder to running back Chris Perry.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- A week after Cleveland allowed Pittsburgh's Duce Staley to have a big game, the Browns did a good job containing Rudi Johnson. Johnson carried 16 times for 57 yards. None of the carries went for longer than 10 yards. The return of defensive tackle Gerard Warren from a pectoral injury helped, but Davis praised the run support of the secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- The kicking game didn't play a major role either way. Dennis Northcutt averaged seven yards in four punt returns, and Dee Brown returned only 22 yards on kickoff returns. Punter Derrick Frost didn't have his best game, in part because of a stiff wind at Cleveland Browns Stadium. He averaged less than 36 yards per punt. Fortunately, the coverage teams did a good job, giving up only 2 yards in as many returns by T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Phil Dawson continued his nearly perfect season. He extended his field-goal streak to an NFL-high 23 with kicks of 23 and 33 yards and had three touchbacks.
COACHING: B -- It didn't take a genius to figure out where to hurt the Bengals, and the Browns didn't try to get cute. Cincinnati has struggled against the run all season, so the Browns pounded them with good results. Defensively, their faith that Henry could handle Johnson was justified. The coaches' biggest blunder was allowing the second-quarter clock to get down to seven seconds before calling timeout with the Browns facing third down at the Cincinnati 5-yard line. That limited the Browns' play-calling options. But it turned out not to hurt the Browns because Garcia threw to Shea for a touchdown on the next play.


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PITTSBURGH STEELERS
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INSIDE SLANT
Who says a rookie quarterback has to bide his team and learn his craft before he becomes a productive NFL starter?
Ben Roethlisberger can't do much more than what he has done in his first four NFL starts. He has led Pittsburgh from the brink of collapse to the top of the AFC North Division with a 5-1 record. Only three teams have better records in the league and the Steelers will play two of them at home in back-to-back games at Heinz Field after their bye week.
They will get a chance to show if they are for real in those two games, but right now the Steelers and fans are exulting in their unexpected success and the surprising early start to their rookie quarterback.
Roethlisberger, who likely will earn his fourth straight NFL rookie of the week honors, was supposed to sit and watch this season and maybe sneak into a few runaway games late. But a training camp injury to backup quarterback Charlie Batch and an elbow injury to starter Tommy Maddox in the second game, left coach Bill Cowher with little choice but to go with the rookie.
Now, they could not pry Roethlisberger out of the lineup. He's there to stay, barring injury. Maddox is due to return the first week of November, before their game against Philadelphia, and he will return as the backup.
"He's going to be their Rookie of the Year," Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis said. "He has the physical and mental talent that you need. To be that young and that good, you have to credit him for that."

NOTES, QUOTES
-- Bill Cowher is no longer 0-for-Texas. He beat Dallas for the first time, running his record against the Cowboys to 1-2. That leaves the Houston Texans as the only team in the NFL a Cowher team has not beaten. Houston is 1-0 against him.
-- There had to be 15,000 Steelers fans at Texas Stadium on Sunday, cheering on their team, booing the Cowboys and making noise when Dallas had the ball. They were twirling their Terrible Towels and had some of the Cowboys upset.
"I was shocked at how many there were," Dallas linebacker Dexter Coakley said.
-- WR Antwaan Randle El took his first snap from quarterback of the season and ran six yards with it. He still has not thrown a pass.
-- FB Dan Kreider touched the ball for the first time when he ran for five yards in the second quarter. He still does not have a pass reception.
-- NT Casey Hampton will go on injured reserve with a torn ligament in his right knee. The Steelers likely will sign Kendrick Clancy to replace him on the roster and start backup Chris Hoke.
-- RB Duce Staley had his string of 100-yard games snapped at a career-high three, but his 93 yards on 18 carries gives him 582 yards rushing in six games and a 4.6-yard average per carry.
-- TE Jerame Tuman, who caught only one pass in his first five games, caught four on Sunday, including the game-winning touchdown as Steelers tight ends caught six passes, two more than they had entering their game in Dallas.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- You won't get much better than what rookie Ben Roethlisberger did in Dallas: 21 of 25 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a season-high 125.5 passer rating. Roethlisberger completed his final 11 throws. Hines Ward dropped one of his passes and the only other flaw: He was sacked three times.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Duce Staley led the way again with 93 yards rushing on 18 carries, a healthy 5.2-yard average. Once again, it was Jerome Bettis cashing in at the goalline with his seventh rushing touchdown. Bettis has not failed to get them into the end zone on seven goalline opportunities inside the five. As a whole, the Steelers averaged 4.3 yards rushing and had 125 yards to show for it.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- Vinny Testaverde completed 23 of 36 passes for 284 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He was picking them apart, especially after Chad Scott left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter. The Steelers dropped two interceptions. But they sacked Testaverde five times and in the end, forced a fumble as he dropped back to pass, a turnover that turned into the game-winning touchdown.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Even though Dallas does not have much of a running game, the Cowboys averaged 4.8 yards a carry as fullback Richie Anderson had the third-best game of his 12-year career with 54 yards on only six carries. That included a 21-yard touchdown run on a third-down draw in which no hand was laid on him. The Cowboys, though, had to pick their spots on the ground and they did not run often, only 21 times for 100 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Jeff Reed made his only field-goal attempt but it came from 51 yards. Billy Cundiff was perfect on his two tries for Dallas. Antwaan Randle El returned one punt 15 yards, the most notable return of the game for either side. The Steelers' coverage on punts and kicks were again excellent.
COACHING: B -- It took the Steelers until the second half to start turning up the heat on their blitz, and that's when Testaverde started to get rattled. Dick LeBeau called a blitz that caused Testaverde to fumble as linebacker James Farrior bore down on him up the middle, and that fumble turned into the game-winner. Their prevent defense at the end, however, with 30 seconds allowed the Jets to toss up a Hail Mary into the end zone on the final play that was tipped around.
 


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