Rob Burnett caused sacks and a change in quarterbacks.
The Ravens' 11-year veteran defensive end supplied the knockout in yesterday's 37-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Bengals, inflicting the game-altering hit that sent starting quarterback Akili Smith to the sidelines.
Rolling on an inside stunt around Sam Adams, Burnett had a clear path at Smith, putting his right shoulder pad flush under Smith's helmet. Less than two minutes into the second quarter, the Bengals had to cope with a 17-0 deficit and the loss of Smith for the rest of the game with a mild concussion.
"I think it changes the focus offensively," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "Obviously, they had some things set up for Akili. And then when they bring Scott [Mitchell] in, it's a little different plan.
"That affects an offense. It was a critical point in the game, too. They had the ball backed up. And then you lose your quarterback like that, and we were able to get on a roll and keep going."
Said Smith: "I don't know what happened. I got hit and was lying on the ground, saw stars, stomach hurt, throat hurt. I took a good shot."
But Burnett wasn't done. On the first series of the second half, Burnett sacked Mitchell from the blind side, slapping the ball out of Mitchell's throwing hand.
Burnett has had a hand in at least one turnover in each of the Ravens' four games this season, forcing three fumbles and making an interception. He finished with four tackles and two sacks yesterday.
It wasn't a perfect day for Burnett, who suffered a bruise on his quadriceps in the second quarter. With a series of long drives by the Ravens' offense, Burnett said the injury tightened up, so he decided not to risk hurting it further in the fourth quarter.
"I'm not concerned at all," Burnett said. "If I can't go Wednesday, then that's a concern. Right now, I don't foresee myself not being able to go."
The Ravens didn't allow a sack for the first time this season and did so without right tackle Harry Swayne for the entire second half. Swayne sustained a right ankle sprain in the first quarter and left for good with two plays left in the first half.
"It's not major," Swayne said. "Some tape, a few days of rest and I should be OK."
Backup Spencer Folau filled in and remembered certain instructions, with Tony Banks as the only healthy veteran quarterback.
"They were really telling us to protect because Tony is really our only quarterback with Trent [Dilfer] down," Folau said. "We were really trying to protect him hard today."
At times, it seemed as if the Ravens delivered more punishment to themselves than they received from the Bengals.
The Ravens committed a season-worst 10 penalties for 90 yards. Also, they were flagged for two false starts on offense, two offsides on defense and 12 players in the offensive huddle at one point.
The biggest unforced blunder came after Burnett's sack of Smith in the second quarter, when defensive tackle Tony Siragusa threw Bengals guard Matt O'Dwyer's helmet to the ground. Siragusa was penalized 20 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
When asked about the penalty, Siragusa said, "I don't remember."
The Ravens played keep-away with the Bengals for most of the game, holding the ball for nearly 39 of the game's 60 minutes. They had averaged 31 minutes of possession in their previous three games.
"It did seem like a marathon out there," split end Qadry Ismail said. "But marathons are good, especially when you're ahead. It felt good to execute."
Ravens coach Brian Billick admitted his instant-replay challenge of Travis Taylor's reception close to the goal line was done out of spite. Only three plays previous to his challenge, he was upset that the officials had penalized running back Priest Holmes for unnecessary roughness when he said he believed that the Bengals had instigated it since the Ravens led 34-0 at that point.
"I wanted to make them [the officials] work a little harder," Billick said of the challenge.
"Nah, I was [ticked] off."
Ismail feels healthy
Ismail showed no effects in his first game back from a knee injury with two tough catches for 15 yards. He was one of seven Ravens to make at least two receptions.
"My knee is fine," Ismail said. "It's divine purpose. What people thought was two to four [weeks], God said it was one and I'm back."
After struggling with third downs for most of the season, the Ravens converted eight of nine in the first half and finished 12-for-17 (71 percent). For Banks, 11 of his 22 completions occurred on third downs.
"Third-down efficiency is always important, but it's never been a major determinant to win," Billick said. "Part of the key is don't stress out with it. Don't become overloaded with it. You do what you do and part of our problem has been drops. We put the proper time in it during the week and the guys know the importance of it."
It doesn't figure to get better any time soon.
"We're 0-3 and this is probably the worst beating we've taken as a team, and we've got Miami next week and they've got a great defense," said Smith. "This is definitely a nightmare. This is what I totally didn't imagine at all."
Mitchell, who finished the game after Smith suffered a second-quarter concussion, appeared to question the Bengals' preparation with one post-game comment.
"Everyone wants to win, but I think there's a difference between wanting to win and preparing to win," he said.
The perfect storm
Banks appreciates how running backs Jamal Lewis and Holmes complement each other.
"Talk about thunder and lightning," Banks said. "We've got our own version here. When Priest gets the ball, he's as exciting as there is. Jamal shows you why he's the fifth pick in the draft."
The running game gained 176 yards - Obafemi Ayanbadejo chipped in 9 yards and one touchdown - behind an inspired offensive line.
"We didn't run the ball well in the first quarter, but we kept at it and wore them down," Banks said. "The holes were pretty big. I think I could've run through a few of those."
Tight end Shannon Sharpe suffered a contusion on his right knee late in the third quarter and did not play in the fourth. It's not considered serious. ... The Ravens have won six straight in the AFC Central, tied for the second-longest divisional winning streak with Tampa Bay. ... The Ravens are 3-1 for the first time since 1997. They finished 6-10 that season. ... Ravens safety Rod Woodson recorded his 55th career interception and his 10th against Cincinnati.
Staff writers Ken Murray and Gary Lambrecht contributed to this article.
From third to first
The Ravens' reversed a decline in third-down production with a spectacular performance against the Bengals. Here is their third-down conversion rate this season:
Opponent 3rd downs Pct.
Pittsburgh 5-16 31
Jacksonville 3-13 23
Miami 2-10 20
Cincinnati 12-17 71
Tot. 22-56 39.2