Too little, too late
Ravens out of playoff hunt despite 22-0 win
Posted: Sunday December 26, 1999 06:30 PM
Bengals CB Rodney Heath was called for pass interference when he tried to pick off a second-quarter pass. AP
BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Ravens soared to new heights Sunday with the first shutout in franchise history and an unprecedented fourth straight victory.
Unfortunately, Baltimore ultimately was denied its most coveted goal -- a trip to the playoffs.
Matt Stover kicked five field goals and the Ravens recorded a season-high seven sacks in ending the Cincinnati Bengals' late-season surge with a 22-0 victory.
The victory assured the Ravens (8-7) their first non-losing season since the team left Cleveland before the 1996 season. Before its current run, Baltimore had won three straight only once, in 1997.
But moments after they walked off the field, the Ravens' slim playoffs ended when Buffalo beat New England 13-10 in overtime.
"We got a shutout, we got a win, but we got the bad news," said Baltimore safety Rod Woodson, who set up a field goal with a 44-yard interception return.
That pretty much summed up the sentiment in the Ravens' locker room. Even though Baltimore played one of its best games of the season, the prevailing feeling was that the effort was for naught.
"It's sweet, but it's bittersweet because we found that Buffalo beat New England today, which axed our chances," defensive tackle Rob Burnett said. "We're happy and we're satisfied with today's work, but as far as the season is concerned I'm disappointed."
The Bengals (4-11), vying for their first four-game winning streak since 1989, never had a chance. Cincinnati, which averaged 36 points over its previous four games and scored a decade-high 44 in its previous two, managed only eight first downs in falling behind 16-0 at halftime.
It was first time the Bengals were blanked on the road since a 20-0 loss to Pittsburgh in 1992.
"We've been averaging 35 points a game and we score zero. No, we didn't play worth a damn," Cincinnati coach Bruce Coslet said. "We didn't play quite up to our standards, let's put it that way."
Pro Bowl-bound Corey Dillon, coming off three straight 100-yard games, was held to 27 yards on 10 carries before leaving in the third quarter with a left knee sprain. Baltimore has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season.
Jeff Blake threw two interceptions in the pivotal first half and finished 20-for-37 for 187 yards. He was sacked seven times, three by Michael McCrary.
Down 16-0, the Bengals moved from their 4 to the Baltimore 2 in a 20-play drive that consumed 9:44. But Keith Washington blocked Doug Pelfrey's field goal try, and the Ravens moved 68 yards before Stover connected from 30 yards.
"I don't know if it sums up the season, but you've got to get it in the end zone," Coslet said. "At the very least, kick a field goal. Their kicker kicked (five) field goals; our kicker missed."
Stover drilled a 19-yarder with 1:57 to go, his 17th straight without a miss.
Baltimore's Tony Banks threw a touchdown pass to Errict Rhett and completed 15 of 33 passes for 187 yards and one interception. He has 11 TD passes and four interceptions during the four-game streak.
But the story was a defense that has allowed only one touchdown in its last two games. The Bengals ran six straight plays inside the Baltimore 6, four of them passes, before the botched field goal.
"When you're down there and you can't run the football, you don't have any choice but to throw it," Blake said. "That's the part of the field where you have to be able to punch it in."
The Ravens went up 7-0 late in the first quarter following a wind-marred 26-yard punt by Cincinnati's Brad Costello. After throwing a 28-yard pass to tight end Ryan Collins, Banks capped the 47-yard drive with a 2-yard toss to Rhett.
Baltimore also began its next two possessions inside Cincinnati territory, following another short punt by Costello and a fumble by Blake after being hit by McCrary. Stover first kicked a 24-yard field goal, then a 48-yarder that hit the crossbar and bounded over to make it 13-0.
Just before the half, Woodson's seventh interception of the season set up a 19-yarder by Stover as the half ended.
Notes: Dillon has scored 21 touchdowns in 46 career games, but none in six games against Baltimore. ... Banks threw a TD pass in his sixth straight game, but his five-game streak with at least two ended. ... Cincinnati's OT Willie Anderson sprained his left ankle in the second quarter and did not return. Baltimore TE Ryan Collins left with a fractured left ankle in the third period. ... Woodson has 54 career interceptions, five off Blake, the most off any QB. ... It was Washington's second blocked FG of the season. ... Baltimore has won four straight against Cincinnati. ... Bengals WR Carl Pickens (four catches) has at least one reception in 92 straight games. Darnay Scott's string of five straight games with a touchdown ended.
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