- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001


CINCINNATI Long after the Cincinnati Bengals were done tossing chin straps and sweat bands to their incredulous fans, Takeo Spikes was still rubbing it in on the Super Bowl champs.
Spikes batted a pass to a teammate for a pivotal end zone interception in the first half, then returned one 66 yards in the fourth quarter to clinch a 21-10 victory yesterday over the Baltimore Ravens.
The unbeaten Bengals backed up their bragging by forcing the Ravens into one turnover after another six in all, setting up all of Cincinnati's points.
The outcome could have been even more lopsided: The Bengals missed three field goals.
The Ravens opened the second half by losing the kickoff, and Elvis Grbac fumbled as he tried to score on a quarterback sneak on the game's final play, providing a fitting end.
It was a sweet afternoon for Spikes, who had belittled Grbac for choosing the Ravens (1-1) over the Bengals in the offseason. Spikes also had another interception that was negated by a penalty.
"We're building something here," Spikes said. "I just kept reminding everybody that he was the guy who said he didn't want to come here, that he had a better chance to win in Baltimore."
On one wacky afternoon, Jon Kitna was the winning quarterback. He threw for a touchdown and ran for another early in the second half, taking advantage of two rapid-fire turnovers deep in Baltimore territory.
Kitna also talked some trash to the Ravens, who had to watch the team with the NFL's worst record for the last 10 years strut around and rub it in their faces.
Tight end Shannon Sharpe, who has called Cincinnati the Siberia of the NFL, conceded that the Bengals brought a lot more emotion to the game.
"Kitna made some plays for them he didn't kill them like the quarterback position has in years past," Sharpe said. "And their defense came out ready to play and took it to us. I'll give them credit. I've been in this league for 12 years, and that's as good as I've seen a Cincinnati team play, from top to bottom."
In addition to being careless with the ball, the Ravens were ineffective when they tried to run a common thread in their first two games. Cincinnati was able to zero in on Grbac, who completed 33 of 63 passes both franchise records for 326 yards with three interceptions and a fumble.
Grbac also had to leave the game for one play after a nasty hit in the fourth quarter.
Standing in a corner of an upbeat Ravens locker room players joked with each other and reporters after their first loss since Oct. 29 Grbac bristled when Spikes' criticism was mentioned.
"He can say whatever he wants to say, but he's got to come to Baltimore, too," Grbac said.
The crowd of 49,632 the smallest in Paul Brown Stadium's two-year history was somber during a pregame tribute to those killed in the terrorist attacks. Bengals tight end Marco Battaglia, who lost friends in the World Trade Center, appeared to shed a tear after the national anthem.
The Bengals improved to 2-0 for the first time since 1995, when they finished 7-9. They were feisty after an opening win over lowly New England; the upset yesterday left them celebrating in the Ravens' faces.
No one got more pleasure than Spikes, who tipped Grbac's pass to himself and headed upfield for the Bengals' longest interception return in eight years.
Bengals players dashed from the bench and piled on Spikes in the end zone as the Ravens walked off the field with their heads down and their hands on their hips.
It was the defining moment of a second half that opened with Patrick Johnson getting the ball pulled out of his arms on the kickoff.
Corey Dillon dunked the ball over the crossbar after his 1-yard touchdown catch put the Bengals ahead 7-3, and Kitna pumped his arms and talked trash to linebacker Peter Boulware.
"It might rub some people the wrong way, and some people might say, 'You're the quarterback. You need to be cool,' " Kitna said. "But if you score a touchdown against Baltimore, you'd better be excited."
The Bengals had scored only one touchdown in their last three games against Baltimore, getting outscored 86-7. This time, the Ravens came unraveled.
In addition to losing the second-half kickoff, the Ravens fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. Kitna dove into the end zone on a 2-yard quarterback draw for a 14-3 lead against a team that had given up only one touchdown in its last five games.
The emotional turning point came late in the first half on a pass that was tipped around before Spikes batted it directly to Brian Simmons. The Ravens had gone 17 plays eight of them from inside the 10-yard line and had a touchdown catch overruled on review during the drive that gave the Bengals confidence.
"They start to make those plays and they start to feel good about themselves, and all of a sudden they're like, 'Hey, we've got the world champs on the ropes,' and they went in for the knockout and they got it," Sharpe said.

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