BALTIMORE, Dec. 5 -- For so long, the Baltimore Ravens' trademark has been their stingy, intimidating defense. But after the Ravens blew a 17-point, third-quarter lead and lost, 27-26, to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon, the usually swaggering defensive players were stunned and silent.
Cincinnati rolled up 222 yards of total offense and scored 24 points in the fourth quarter alone and won on Shayne Graham's 24-yard field goal as time expired. No team had ever scored as many points in the final quarter against the Ravens; nine teams had failed to score 24 points against them in an entire game this season.
Carson Palmer rallies the Bengals in the fourth quarter, when he completed 10 of 13 passes for 200 yards.
(Chris Gardner -- AP)
Ray Lewis credits the Bengals for their comeback.
Carson Palmer is pleased with the Bengals' rally from a 17-point deficit.
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer completed 10 of 13 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the former number one draft pick finished with a career day: 29 for 36 (80.6 percent), 382 passing yards and a 127.1 passer rating. Receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson combined for 20 catches and 332 yards.
Cincinnati (6-6) won in Baltimore for the first time since 1996, and beat a winning team on the road for the first time since 1990. Baltimore lost after leading by two touchdowns for the first time in Coach Brian Billick's six-year tenure. The crowd of 69,695 at M&T Bank Stadium was shocked; so were the Ravens.
"Not in a million years," said defensive end Anthony Weaver, when asked if he ever expected the Ravens' defense to lose a 17-point lead. "The way this defense fell apart is uncharacteristic. It doesn't happen, not around here. We've got a lot of things to correct right now."
Baltimore, which is in the thick of the AFC playoff race, doesn't have much time in which to do it. The Ravens (7-5) got a break Sunday when Denver, their chief rival for the final wild-card spot, fell to 7-5 after a 20-17 loss to San Diego. The Ravens will host the New York Giants (5-7) next week, and the Broncos will host Miami (2-10).
"What are you going to do? We're going to fight," left tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "We ain't going to just lay down. You've got two choices, man. You either suck it up, get . . . in the daggone film room, figure it out and fight, or you lay down and roll over. That's not our mentality."
Linebacker Ray Lewis seemed to question the Ravens' mentality Sunday against the Bengals.
"I think it's a gut check for anybody who didn't put his heart in this game. Period," Lewis said. "If you walk on a football field, there's two things you're going to do. Either you're going to watch it or you're going to play it.
"Now we have to understand, when you're talking about a team concept, team only exists by simply every man doing their job. Period. Period. So when they understand that, that's their gut check. It's hard for me to keep speaking for everybody. Now whoever's accountable for the gut check, tell them to gut check themselves because I'm just coming to work to get ready to play the Giants."
The Ravens appeared to have the game under control late in the third quarter when safety Ed Reed intercepted a Palmer pass at the Baltimore 15. Reed was stripped of the ball by tight end Tony Stewart on the return, but Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister scooped it up and ran 64 yards for the touchdown, the sixth scored by the defense this season. Baltimore led 20-3 with 2 minutes 29 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bengals were forced to punt on their next possession and things started to unravel for the Ravens. Rookie returner B.J. Sams muffed the catch and Cincinnati linebacker Marcus Wilkins recovered on the Baltimore 19. The Bengals scored in two plays, and Johnson's 13-yard touchdown catch brought the Bengals within 10 with 14:55 left.
The Ravens' offense responded with a three-and-out; quarterback Kyle Boller was stuffed on third and less than a yard. Cincinnati again scored quickly, using only five plays to cover 76 yards. Palmer hit Johnson with a 12-yard touchdown pass, zipping the ball by Reed, and the Bengals were within 20-17 with over 10 minutes left.
A 38-yard field goal from Matt Stover pushed Baltimore's lead to 23-17, but once more Palmer led the Bengals to a touchdown. He connected with Houshmandzadeh on three passes for 67 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown pass that gave Cincinnati its first lead, 24-23, with 5:38 to go.
The Ravens got two big breaks on their final drive: Houshmandzadeh was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his touchdown, which meant that the Bengals had to kick off from their 15; and a fumble by Chester Taylor was wiped out by an illegal contact penalty on Tory James.
Baltimore moved to the Bengals 14, but Taylor was stopped for a three-yard loss and center Casey Rabach was called for holding. On third and 17 from the 27, Boller's pass bounced well in front of Travis Taylor. Stover converted the 45-yard field goal to give Baltimore a 26-24 advantage with 1:42 left.
That was more than enough time for the Bengals, who began on their 34. Palmer was sacked by Weaver for an eight-yard loss on the first play, but he wasn't fazed; he found Houshmandzadeh wide open on the left side for a 32-yard gain on the next play. An 11-yard pass to tight end Matt Schobel followed by a 22-yard pass to Johnson helped set up Graham's kick.
"This team can play better than that, and it didn't," Billick said. "You don't have to isolate the defense, offense, special teams, across the board. There's more we needed to do to win; we could've put this game away and we did not. You've got to do that at home, and we didn't do it."
Ravens Notes: Chester Taylor rushed for a career-high 139 yards on 23 carries and scored one touchdown. He started in place of Jamal Lewis, who was out with a sprained ankle. . . . Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap played for the first time since spraining his ankle Sept. 19. He was on the field for approximately 25 snaps and caught three passes for 22 yards.