- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

BALTIMORE In a wild and wacky game, the Baltimore Ravens made more big plays than the Cincinnati Bengals to stop a two-game losing streak.
Rookie Lamont Brightful returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown and defensive end Adalius Thomas returned an errant Jon Kitna pass 25 yards for another score to lead the Ravens to a 38-27 victory in a turnover-plagued game yesterday before 69,024 at Ravens Stadium.
Brightful's second-quarter punt return was the longest in Ravens history and the longest in the NFL this season. His first career touchdown gave the Ravens a 24-14 halftime lead.
Thomas' second interception of the season and first touchdown of his career happened on the first play of the second quarter and gave the Ravens a 14-7 lead. Thomas' feat answered Bengals kick returner Brandon Bennett's first-quarter 94-yard kickoff return.
"It's one of the craziest games I've ever been involved with, no doubt," said Kitna, who tossed three interceptions. "I'm sitting there thinking, this is a silly game, and I'm trying to you know, when stuff like that happens, you're seeing returns go all over the field. I'm thinking, 'OK, let's try to go out there and calm this thing down and get back to the basics of our system.'"
Kitna should have settled himself down. His first interception, which rookie safety Ed Reed grabbed for his team-leading third interception, ignited one of the wildest plays in the league this season and one of the most embarrassing moments in team history.
On third-and-6, Kitna overthrew Peter Warrick at the Cincinnati 46 and into the arms of Reed, who cut through traffic in the middle of the field and broke free around the Bengals 20. When he reached the 12, Reed held the ball aloft with his right arm in a premature touchdown celebration. Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh stripped Reed of the ball at the 8 and Warrick recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
The Bengals (1-8) received the ball back at their 20 and the Ravens (4-5) had nothing to show on the scoreboard for Reed's antics.
"I was like a kid in a candy store with no money," Reed said. "You want the candy but you just can't get it. The ball went up and I looked back, but not all the way. The guy just came up behind me, but you know, I have to be smarter."
Brian Billick, the Ravens' fourth-year coach, refused to field questions after the game questions that would've ultimately concerned Reed's blunder. Instead, Billick ushered in his no-name defensive front seven and sung the praises of that group in a short statement.
Baltimore, however, permitted Bengals star running back Corey Dillon to rush for 102 yards on 21 carries, Kitna to complete 28 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Chad Johnson to collect 110 yards on seven catches. The Bengals outgained the Ravens 372 yards to 325, but Billick wanted to hype his defense, which didn't exactly shut down the league's 25th-ranked offense.
"This is a bigger win than anybody here is going to understand, or nationally, in terms of what we're trying to do, where we're trying to go," Billick said.
That presumably is the playoffs. The Ravens offense wasn't spectacular, but efficient. Running back Jamal Lewis rushed for 135 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns. The Ravens are 8-0 when Lewis gains more than 100 yards. Lewis scored on 1- and 3-yard runs off left tackle.
Quarterback Jeff Blake completed 16 of 24 passes for 183 yards and a 1-yard, third-quarter touchdown to Travis Taylor that gave the Ravens a commanding 31-17 lead over Blake's former team.
It will be interesting to see who the Ravens starting quarterback will be Sunday in Miami. Blake has filled in for starter Chris Redman (back) the past three weeks, winning just once. Redman, who complained of numbness down his right leg, started throwing late last week and may be healthy enough to start against the Dolphins.
"I think we're good either way," Lewis said of the quarterback situation. "I don't think we're doing anything different as far as scoring points or winning games when Chris Redman was in there."

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