The nightmare continued to get worse for Boller.

Over the next six possessions, he fumbled three times (only one was recovered by the Bengals), had three passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage and even slipped once when trying to plant his back foot deep in his own territory.

His first interception was a poorly thrown deep pass down the sideline to receiver Mark Clayton, and his second one went directly to safety Ifeanyi Ohalete, whom Boller acknowledged not seeing.

Slouched on the bench before halftime, Boller had a hollow look in his eyes.

"It was a very hard first half," Boller said. "I take a lot of that on myself. My thing is I need to go out there and execute."

Helped by a couple of Cincinnati turnovers, the Ravens scored three touchdowns in a 4-minute, 49-second span. Jamal Lewis, who recorded his first 100-yard game, ran into the end zone from 5 yards out to bring the Ravens to within 34-21 with 11:58 left in the game.

But the Bengals sealed the first season sweep of the Ravens in nine years by answering with a nine-play, 61-yard drive that was capped by Rudi Johnson's 3-yard touchdown.

The 42 points were the most allowed by a Ravens defense since 1998.

"We played our best football for about 15 minutes and it showed," linebacker Adalius Thomas said.

During the Ravens' failed comeback, Boller connected with tight end Todd Heap for touchdowns of 34 and 17 yards and hit Mason for a 28-yard score.

The lowest-scoring team in the NFL, the Ravens produced four touchdowns in two quarters after reaching the end zone eight times in their first 10 games.

"I think I settled down a little bit," Boller said. "I kind of went out there and just played the game. I didn't worry about a lot. We're down 34-0, so what is there to worry about? That's how I need to play all the time, to be in that state of mind."

It marked the Ravens' fifth loss in six games, dropping them to 3-8 for the first time since 1996, their inaugural season in Baltimore.

Nevertheless, Billick couldn't hide his admiration for how his last-place team did not quit.

"I could not ask more than the way our guys responded to the circumstances," Billick said. "It was a loss, make no mistake - are we clear on that? I'm not making excuses. It's a loss, and a loss in the NFL costs you.

"I'm talking about a team emotionally that's fighting through its circumstances and I couldn't be prouder about what they did."
40-something

The 42 points scored by Cincinnati yesterday marked the sixth time in team history that the Ravens have allowed 40 or more points (all were losses except the Seattle game in 2003):

Pts., Opponent, Date
46 vs. New England 10/6/96
45 at Denver 10/20/96
45 vs. Jacksonville 11/1/98
42 vs. Pittsburgh 10/5/97
42 at Cincinnati 11/27/05
41 vs. Seattle 11/23/03

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com