- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens’ vaunted defense collapsed yesterday under a relentless air assault by Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Palmer, the Bengals’ highly touted second-year quarterback, threw for a career-high 382 yards and three touchdowns to rally Cincinnati to a stunning 27-26 victory over the Ravens before 69,695 at M&T; Bank Stadium.

The Ravens (7-5) squandered a 20-3 third-quarter advantage — the third-largest blown lead in team history. Afterward, the Baltimore locker room was filled with anger and disbelief.

“If you walk onto a football field, there are two things you are going to do, either you’re going to watch it or you’re going to play it,” Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “When you’re talking about a team concept, a team only exists by simply every man doing their job. So, when [the Ravens] understand that, then that’s a gut-check.”

Baltimore seemingly had the game won when Matt Stover nailed a 45-yard field goal with 1:45 remaining to give the Ravens a 26-24 lead. One problem: The Ravens left Palmer with too much time on the clock.

Palmer, the top pick in last year’s NFL Draft, drove the Bengals (6-6) 60 yards in 1:42 to set up Shayne Graham’s game-winning 24-yard field goal as time expired.

With the win, Cincinnati keeps its longshot playoff hopes alive. It was the first time the Bengals have won in Baltimore since 1996, and the victory snapped a 42-game losing streak on the road to teams with winning records.

“It’s across the board,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said of the reasons for the loss. “This is a team. This team can play better than that, and it didn’t. 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 have put this game away, and we did not. You’ve got to do that at home, and we didn’t do it.”

The Bengals’ 24 points in the fourth quarter were the most ever allowed by the Ravens.

Wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh (10 receptions, career-high 171 yards, one touchdown) and Chad Johnson (10 receptions, 161 yards, two TDs) recorded the third- and seventh-most receiving yards ever against Baltimore.

Johnson caught 13- and 12-yard touchdown passes early in the fourth quarter. Johnson’s second score cut the Ravens’ lead to 20-17 with 10:39 left when he beat Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed to the end zone’s left corner after cornerback Chris McAlister failed to contain Johnson in man-to-man coverage.

Palmer also connected with Johnson on the game-winning drive with a 22-yard strike to the Ravens’ 9 with 30 second left.

“They left him man-to-man, and [McAlister] had been cheating all game, trying to make a play on the ball,” Palmer said of his pass to Johnson that set up the game-winning field goal. “Chad had a great release and just cut down field and just got us in range.”

The Ravens jumped to a 20-3 lead on two Stover field goals (20 and 22 yards), a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Chester Taylor, and a 64-yard fumble return by McAlister. Taylor rushed for a career-high 139 yards on 23 carries. It was the first 100-yard game for Taylor.

The momentum started to shift toward the Bengals late in the third quarter when Ravens rookie returner B.J. Sams muffed a punt to give Cincinnati the ball at the Baltimore 19. Two plays later, Palmer found Johnson for the first of his two touchdowns to make it 20-10.

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