Bengals follow pattern
More dramatics, another win put them on top in AFC North
BALTIMORE - In a duel for first place in the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals found a way to win another close game.
For the Baltimore Ravens, it was a familiar loss.
Carson Palmer threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with 22 seconds left to cap an 80-yard drive fueled by Baltimore penalties, and the Bengals escaped with a 17-14 victory yesterday.
All five of Cincinnati’s games this season have been decided by 7 points or fewer. The Bengals have won three straight games by 3 points apiece, and at this point they seem like they wouldn’t want it any other way.
“They believe they can win, no matter what the circumstances are,’’ coach Marvin Lewis said. “We keep talking about that. Don’t worry about it, don’t flinch, keep playing.’’
The Bengals (4-1) appeared destined to come out on the short end of this one until Palmer masterfully directed the final drive - with the help of three flags.
An illegal contact penalty against Chris Carr and an unnecessary roughness call against Ray Lewis preceded the topper, a pass interference penalty against Frank Walker on third and 16 from the Baltimore 30.
On the next play, Palmer found Caldwell over the middle, and he cruised into the end zone for the winning score.
Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson ran for 120 yards, becoming the first player in 40 games to eclipse 100 yards rushing against the Ravens.
Palmer was 18 of 31 for 271 yards, and Chad Ochocinco had seven catches for 94 yards.
“We weren’t as sound as we should have been. Offensively, and as a whole, we had a couple of turnovers,’’ Ochocinco said. “But we were able to find some breaks and make our way. We were able to capitalize on the last drive.’’
Baltimore (3-2) has lost two straight after starting 3-0 for the second time in franchise history. Last week, two roughing the passer calls played a key part in a 27-21 defeat at New England.
Against Cincinnati, the Ravens were penalized 10 times for 76 yards, with several infractions coming at the worst possible time.
“I’m not going there with you. I don’t do the referee thing,’’ defensive end Trevor Pryce said. “If you dominate, the calls don’t matter.’’
The Ravens, quite simply, did not come close to dominating. They were limited to one offensive touchdown after averaging 32.5 points in their first four games, and the defense yielded 403 yards - including 142 on the ground.
Baltimore trailed, 10-7, when Ray Rice took a screen pass from Joe Flacco, then turned upfield with several tacklers in his way. After ducking linebacker Brandon Johnson, the 5-foot-8-inch running back dipped his left arm and stayed upright by planting his fingers on the artificial turf before completing the 48-yard scoring play.
Then it was Palmer’s turn.
“That was Carson in the huddle, being very confident, being very sound, keeping everybody calm,’’ Ochocinco said. “When he talks the way he does in that huddle, with that confidence and that swagger like that, there’s no doubt that we’re going to go down and score.’’
It was the second time the Bengals had to rally. A 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ed Reed gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Bengals took a 10-7 lead in the third quarter with an 84-yard drive kept alive by an illegal contact penalty against Baltimore cornerback Domonique Foxworth on third down. Four plays later, Benson broke loose for a 28-yard TD run.
The Bengals awarded a game ball to second-year defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who was on the sideline just three days after his wife’s unexpected death.