Posted: Sunday December 26, 1999 06:59 PM
BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- A defense led by four Pro Bowlers and the foot of Matt Stover carried the Baltimore Ravens to their fourth straight win.
Defensive end Michael McCrary, selected as a Pro Bowl reserve, had three of Baltimore's seven sacks and Stover tied a career high with five field goals as the Ravens posted the first shutout in their four-year history, a 22-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Getting a goose head in this league, it is very hard to do," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of the shutout. "I feel good about that. You earn what you get in a 16-game schedule."
Baltimore (8-7) harassed Cincinnati quarterback Jeff Blake all day and stuffed Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon. Before leaving in the third quarter with a strained left knee, Dillon managed just 27 yards on 10 carries. The Bengals had scored 146 points in their previous four games.
Despite the win, the Ravens were officially eliminated from the playoffs when Buffalo beat New England earlier today.
"It feels good to finally have a winning record," McCrary said. "Not getting in (the playoffs), kind of dampens the mood. We knew it was a long shot, but at least it was a shot. This is something to definitely build on for next year."
Ravens safety Rod Woodson, also selected as a Pro Bowl reserve, had a 44-yard interception return. It was his seventh interception of the season and the 54th of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Willie Brown for 16th on the all-time list. Nine of the 54 have come against the Bengals.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, a Pro Bowl starter, led the Ravens with nine tackles and Peter Boulware, Baltimore's other Pro Bowl starter, forced a fumble.
Stover, who kicked the game-winning 50-yard field goal as time expired in Baltimore's 34-31 victory at Cincinnati on November 21, has converted 17 straight field goals. He kicked three from 24, 48 and 19 yards in the second quarter and two more of 30 and 19 yards in the fourth period.
"The guys gave me good field positioning," Stover said. "It's been a good run in December, five is great. I still prefer TDs.
I gave it all on the 48-yarder. I hit it on the laces. You never know when you have the opportunity and today I got five of them."
Tony Banks, who improved to 6-3 as Baltimore's starting quarterback, hit running back Errict Rhett with a two-yard scoring pass in the first quarter for the game's only touchdown.
Banks was 15-of-33 for 187 yards with an interception.
"It's definitely frustrating not to score a lot (TDs), but we got the job done," Banks said. "We can't say enough about the defense. They won this one. I didn't play my best, I could've been a lot better."
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Bengals, who slipped to 4-11.
Blake completed 20-of-37 passes for 187 yards with two interceptions.
"They have a great defense," Blake said. "They are very, very fast and made it tough on us. They made the plays and we didn't."
Rhett's touchdown capped an eight-play, 47-yard drive. Banks hit rookie tight end Ryan Collins with a 28-yard pass to the Cincinnati 8. Four plays later, Banks hit Rhett for the game's only touchdown.
Stover's first field goal, a 24-yarder, capped a nine-play, 41-yard drive. His second, a 48-yarder, was set up when McCrary forced a fumble by Blake and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa recovered for the Ravens.
"McCrary is very active, you have to know where he is," said Bengals coach Bruce Coslet. "They put a lot of pressure on us the whole game. Seeing them twice, now I know why they're in the top five (defenses in the league)."
Stover kicked a 19-yard field goal on the final play of the half after Woodson's 44-yard interception return to the Cincinnati 9.
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