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  Raven Sets Mark in Win Over Bengals

Ravens Logo By Ken Denlinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 23, 1998; Page C8

CINCINNATI, Nov. 22 – The Baltimore Ravens would dearly love to grab the cuddly Cincinnati Bengals, dress them in the uniforms of the appropriate opponent and sneak them into every game for the rest of the season.

Half of Baltimore's four victories have been against the Bengals – and Priest Holmes followed what seemed close to an awesome running show the first time with 227 yards today.

Holmes passed the 173 yards he gained nearly two months ago against the Bengals early in the fourth quarter. A few seconds later, he sailed by the team-record 176 yards Bam Morris set last season against the Washington Redskins.

Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos had most productive game in the league this season, 208, until the Holmes-led offense controlled the ball the final eight minutes in the 20-13 victory.

No runner in the history of the NFL in Baltimore – not Lenny Moore, Alan Ameche nor Lydell Mitchell of the sainted Colts – ever had a 200-yard game before.

The Ravens said Holmes's 400 yards against the Bengals this season are the most by a back against the same team in the same season in at least 28 years.

The victory allowed the Ravens (4-7) to put some distance between themselves and the last-place Bengals (2-9) in the AFC Central.

"Any running back watching this game would have loved to have been in my position," said Holmes, referring to a couple of rarities: exceptional blocking by the offensive line and a determined effort to stay with the run by Coach Ted Marchibroda.

Holmes had dashes of 56 and 38 yards during his 36 carries and scored Baltimore's first touchdown on a dive from the 1-yard line.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis had two interceptions, the second of which came after the Bengals had pulled to within four points late in the third quarter.

Baltimore's blockers were angry that only 10 running plays were called in the 14-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers last week – and left tackle Jonathan Ogden went to Marchibroda on Monday to complain.

"There wasn't enough faith in us," Ogden said. "Priest can run against good defenses if you give him the ball."

"I was glad to see him come up," Marchibroda said. "It was the first time this year [the players] had a little accountability. I was glad to see those guys put themselves on the spot."

After his first two carries gained three yards, Holmes was fearful of a repeat of last week. But Marchibroda knew the Bengals had the worst run defense in the league.

And when Holmes's third carry, behind blocks by Odgen and right guard Jeff Blackshear, resulted in a 56-yard gain, the pound-pound theme was established.

"Priest had lots of good holes," said quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who produced Baltimore's other touchdown with a 12-yard pass to fullback Roosevelt Potts.

"But he also had lots of second-effort yards. The linemen kept telling me plays they wanted to run."

Holmes was elevated from third string just before the 31-24 victory against the Bengals. His stats vs. the Bengals are 400 yards on 63 carries. In his 90 carries against all the other teams, he has 290 yards.

Most impressive for Holmes and the offense was taking the ball on their 5 with nearly 8½ minutes left and not giving it up. A 14-yard Harbaugh-to-Jermaine Lewis pass play on third down from the 12 was important.

Holmes carried the ball on 10 of the next 11 plays – and the Ravens only got to third down once.

"A thing of beauty," said Harbaugh.

"I'm sore," said right tackle Orlando Brown, "but happy."

There were other individual and unit highlights for the Ravens. One was a block by outside linebacker Peter Boulware on Lewis's second interception return that knocked the helmet off left tackle Rod Jones.

Jermaine Lewis's 87-yard punt return for a touchdown the last time against the Bengals caused Lee Johnson to aim his efforts out of bounds whenever possible – and a 25-yard mishit late in the second quarter helped the Ravens to the touchdown that lifted their lead to 17-3 at halftime.

Ray Lewis was the bonanza-sized winner for the week.

The interceptions came three days after he signed a four-year contract extension – and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa cracked: "I finally figured out what's wrong with this team. They need to give everybody a $7 million signing bonus and we'll all play like Ray Lewis."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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