CINCINNATI -- The Ravens won't soon forget the jubilation in the locker room after last week's upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers because they haven't enjoyed it often. Four times to be exact.
They want the celebrations to become a regular part of the season. High-fives. Hugs. A rear end-slapping good time. The Ravens (4-9) will get another chance today when they meet the Cincinnati Bengals (5-8) at Cinergy Field at 1 p.m.
"The Pittsburgh game was a real boost for this team," said Ravens offensive tackle Tony Jones. "To go out there and play like we did against Pittsburgh, which was looking for a win to clinch the division title, well, it makes you think about what could have been.
"We have to remember that feeling in the locker room, what it was like to be winners, because it's the culmination of a long week of work. In our remaining games, we need to go on the road to win a game and set a tone for next year. I think the future looks bright for this team."
But before the Ravens look too far into the future, they have to settle some business from the past. The last time the Ravens faced the Bengals was Nov. 3 at Memorial Stadium.
The Ravens took a 21-3 halftime lead only to lose, 24-21, on Doug Pelfrey's 34-yard field goal as time expired. It was one of the team's most painful losses.
"We've talked about that this week. It's been a big thing," said Ravens reserve safety Vashone Adams. "They squeezed out a couple of big plays, and once they got the momentum going, we were deflated in the fourth quarter.
"We already showed that we can play with them. As a matter of fact, we dominated them. Now we have to go out and prove ourselves again. This time, we don't want to let up."
The Bengals have split their four games since beating the Ravens. They are still a team in transition, one that is trying to find its offensive and defensive grooves.
But this Bengals offense is productive, averaging 23 points and 324.5 yards a game.
"They have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Jeff Blake and those receivers [Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott], plus tight end Tony McGee, are outstanding," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. Cincinnati's defense leads the league in take-aways, with 28 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries, but has given up more points (24.4 a game) and yards (349.2 a game) than the offense has gained.
The Bengals have allowed 243.2 passing yards a game, and now must face the NFL's No. 2 passing game. Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde is having a career year, having completed 261 of 441 passes for 3,425 yards and 27 touchdowns.
His receivers, Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander, both have 59 catches. Jackson has 938 yards and 10 touchdowns; Alexander has 1,073 yards and nine touchdowns.
"Those two are playing as well as any tandem in the league, and Testaverde is at his absolute best," Bengals coach Bruce Coslet said.
The teams have many similarities. Both are below .500, score a lot of points and give up even more. Both are in their first year under their current coaches and both would like to start a late-season winning streak, but the Ravens may have an edge. The Nov. 3 loss was an embarrassment.
"We were fortunate, if not downright lucky, to come away with a win last time," Coslet said.
Testaverde said: "I think we still have some things to prove."
Said Marchibroda: "Winning on the road is another step for us, and this is an opportunity to get it done. We beat Pittsburgh, we know how close we are with the Jaguars and we end the season against the Oilers. Not being in the playoff picture, this gives us some incentive to see how we compete with the teams in our division.
"I don't know about revenge or things like that, but our players are happy to get another shot at the Bengals. We can build some momentum going into the off-season and restore some confidence."
Ravens (4-9) at Bengals (5-8)
Site: Cinergy Field, Cincinnati
Time: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Bengals by 2 1/2
Last meeting: Bengals beat Ravens, 24-21, at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 3
Pub Date: 12/08/96