Ravens' secondary scorched by Bengals

CINCINNATI -- Chad Johnson treated the Baltimore Ravens' secondary like a bunch of golf hacks as he unveiled his impression of Tiger Woods. Following a 54-yard touchdown catch behind cornerback Dale Carter, the Cincinnati Bengals' All-Pro wideout celebrated by uprooting the end-zone pylon and putting the football across the damp artificial turf Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. He even pumped his fist, just like the PGA Tour superstar.

"I'm a big fan of Tiger," said Johnson, who caught five passes for 88 yards in the Bengals' 42-29 win. "I don't know any other way to let him know I'm better than him by showing my skills after a touchdown.

"That was a good one, not one of my best. I've got a very good one next week to top everything I've done so far."
It was a rough day for an injury-depleted secondary that was already without Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed and lost safety Will Demps for the season in the second quarter as X-rays revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister exited early with a sore hamstring, but not before being dusted on T.J. Houshmandzadeh's double-move and Palmer's pump fake for a 28-yard reception that set up a touchdown.

The Ravens were forced to go with Chad Williams and rookie B.J. Ward at safety, and cornerbacks Samari Rolle, Carter and Deion Sanders were picked on by Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer who threw three touchdowns and passed for 302 yards.

Plus, T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught a game-high nine passes for 147 yards and a 30-yard touchdown.

"They played better football," Carter said. "I can't sugar-coat it. We weren't playing like the Baltimore Ravens. Why? I have no idea."

With the injury situation, the Ravens weren't able to blitz as often and Palmer was never sacked as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was shut out by left tackle Levi Jones.

One week after suffering a concussion, Rolle wasn't particularly sharp or physical. Rookie receiver Chris Henry dashed past Sanders, 38, on an inside route for a 27-yard touchdown pass.

Sanders often claims that he's never surrendered a touchdown pass and did again Sunday. He donated the cleats he wore afterward at Houshmandzeh's request.

"We can't use injuries as an excuse," Carter said. "We're in the NFL. Anything can come up."

Palmer completed 22 of 30 passes as Cincinnati piled up 437 yards of total offense. Following his touchdown to Johnson, Palmer completed 12 of his next 16 passes for 177 yards.

"They're an improving offense and they were the better team," linebacker Bart Scott said. "We pride ourselves on our defense and making plays. It was a tough day.

"They're a unique team. They want to throw the ball to set up the run. We had to adjust when we had some guys go down and had to cut down our packages."

Johnson boldly claimed that he can't be covered and unveiled a raggedy Terrible Towel afterward in anticipation of a clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers next week that will probably decide the AFC North title.

The Ravens couldn't do anything to stop Johnson or his elaborate end-zone antics, despite measures that included a 4-4 scheme. The Ravens were often flagged for illegal contact in a failed attempt to slow down fleet wide receivers who caught all but two of Palmer's 22 completions.

Did Johnson's look-at-me display infuriate the Ravens?

"We don't care," Scott said. "It's our job to stop him. It's his right to celebrate however he wants. Whenever we give that up, we deserve that. If we don't want to see him dance or celebrate, then keep him out of the end zone."

SUPPORT FOR BOLLER: Despite three turnovers from embattled quarterback Kyle Boller (two interceptions and a fumble), Ravens coach Brian Billick chose to accentuate the positive of three second-half touchdown passes.

"Like the team, you can't make mistakes like that in the first half, but it was the way he responded," Billick said. "He grew individually, and we grew as a team. It's hard to understand that given the fact that we lost and looked so bad to start. Where we came from that point, I'm encouraged."

Boller went on a 14-for-17 streak in the second half after beginning 4-for-15 for 37 yards and two interceptions.

"Yeah, we did some great things in the second half and I'm going to pull from that, but the first half I can't play like that," Boller said.

QUICK HITS: Jamal Lewis' two touchdown runs represents all of the Ravens' rushing scores. In the past 60 years, only two teams have gone an entire season without running for more than two touchdowns: the 1972 Philadelphia Eagles and the 1995 New York Jets. … Tight end Todd Heap caught six passes for 87 yards to pass Michael Jackson for third place on the Ravens' all-time career receptions list. … It marked the first time since a 44-30 victory over the 49ers on Dec. 5, 1999 that a Bengals quarterback threw for 300 yards (Jeff Blake for 334) on the same day a running back ran for 100 (Corey Dillon for 133) and a wide receiver caught 100 (Carl Pickens for 107). ... With Lewis the only healthy tailback, fullback Justin Green carried it five times for four yards and receiver Mark Clayton had a 6-yard run. ... Middle linebacker Tommy Polley led the Ravens with nine tackles, but couldn't stop Rudi Johnson (114 yards) from gaining 4.2 per carry. ... The Ravens deactivated linebacker Ray Lewis (thigh), safety Ed Reed (ankle), running back Chester Taylor (foot), running back Musa Smith (leg), offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (thigh), offensive tackle Orlando Brown (back) and wide receiver Clarence Moore.
 

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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