- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Over the last five games, the Baltimore Ravens' record-setting defense has allowed just one touchdown and scored two of its own.

With that in mind, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna is making his first appearance against the defending champions' dominant defense in today's AFC Central showdown at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium.

"If you're going to get intimidated by anybody, you really are in the wrong profession," Kitna said. "You can't allow yourself to become intimidated by anybody. You understand that each team has their own strengths and weaknesses and you have to play to your strengths."

In the Bengals' case, that would be running back Corey Dillon. Unfortunately for the Bengals (1-0), the Ravens' stout defense has negated Dillon in the past. Dillon owns the NFL record for rushing yards in a game (278), has topped the 1,100-yard mark in each of his first four seasons and set a Bengals team record with 1,435 yards last year. But Dillon's numbers haven't come at the Ravens' expense.

In seven games against the Ravens (1-0), the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Dillon has averaged 49.1 rushing yards and has not scored a touchdown. Dillon, who has 29 career touchdowns, has had just one 100-yard game against the Ravens a 116-yard effort on 25 carries in 1998. Against the rest of the league, Dillon has averaged 87.3 yards.

"We try our best to shut down everybody, and [Dillon] is just another running back that's after the end zone," said Ravens cornerback Duane Starks, who will make his season debut today after sitting out the opener with a sprained knee. "If we go out and do exactly what we're used to doing and play ball how we want to play, then we'll be able to knock these guys out and knock them out early mentally."

It would be easy for the Ravens to overlook the Bengals and focus on next week's AFC showdown at the explosive Denver Broncos. However, the Ravens see the Bengals as a vastly improved team from last season's 4-12 disaster. Cincinnati's 23-17 season-opening victory over the New England Patriots has the Bengals believing they can compete in the AFC Central.

Last week against the Patriots, Dillon rushed for 104 yards, Kitna registered a 101.5 passing rating and the defense sacked Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe four times.

"They don't have the distractions that they've had in years past," Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "One year it was [wide receiver Carl Pickens] being upset at the coaching staff, the next year their coach [Bruce Coslet] walks out on them and one year it's Corey Dillon holding out. I think they got all the turmoil and all of the distractions out of the way. Now they can just concentrate on football. They got all the people there that they want to be there. They got the coaching staff settled."

The Ravens offense is hoping to crank it up a notch in today's game. In the Ravens' 17-6 season-opening defeat of Chicago, the Ravens rushed for just 54 yards. Ravens coach Brian Billick said he will stick with Terry Allen as the feature back but would like to see the running game become more efficient.

The Ravens have won six straight against the Bengals and outscored them 64-7 in two games last season.

"A lot has happened since the last time we saw these guys, on and off the field," Billick said. "They're 1-0 and we're 1-0. Regardless of whatever happened last year, our guys are going to understand that [the Bengals] are a team that has talent. We're playing on the road, and they have the same record as we do."

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