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'Charm City' bullies Mitchell again


At least he left the field under his own power.

Nothing else went right for Scott Mitchell after he replaced injured starting Cincinnati quarterback Akili Smith early in the second quarter of yesterday's 37-0 rout by the Ravens.

In the short time since he has been associated with Baltimore, little has gone Mitchell's way. His effort to revive his fading career here ended after six ineffective quarters in the 1999 season, when Ravens coach Brian Billick knocked him from first to third on the quarterback depth chart. Mitchell never took a snap after that.

Mitchell's next move was to sign a one-year contract in March with the Bengals, who installed him as a backup to Smith, a second-year passer, a first-round draft pick and the team's franchise quarterback.

Yesterday, from the moment Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett broke into the backfield untouched and buried Smith - sending him wobbling to the sideline with a concussion - it was all downhill once again for Mitchell.

After trotting onto the PSINet Stadium field under a chorus of boos, Mitchell confronted the same dominating Ravens defense that had tormented Smith. Two interceptions, one lost fumble and two sacks later, Mitchell tried to put a hopeful face on a bleak future in 0-3 Cincinnati, after the Bengals suffered their second straight shutout.

"We never had an opportunity to get any momentum or do anything to get excited about," Mitchell said after the Bengals recorded 94 net yards, 4 yards rushing and seven first downs, while running just 44 plays to the Ravens' 77. "We're in a hole right now. It's not even close to what we anticipated, but it's still early.

"We can't start backbiting and pointing fingers. But you have to be realistic. You can't just stick your head in the sand and say everything is going to be all right."

In other words, the uphill battle in Cincinnati will be grueling. It certainly was yesterday for Mitchell, who was handcuffed from the start yesterday. His offensive line proved to be a sieve against the Ravens, rookie wide-outs Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans were overmatched and running back Corey Dillon had no place to go.

"We're not running the ball, and that all starts with me and the line up front," Bengals offensive tackle Willie Anderson said.

Mitchell, 32, was game enough to complete 14 of 23 passes for 97 yards, although his longest completion went for merely 14 yards.

He mainly fell in line with Cincinnati's offensive futility. With the Bengals trailing 17-0 with eight minutes remaining in the first half, Mitchell forced a pass to Warrick into tight coverage. Rod Woodson picked off the pass and returned it 2 yards to the Bengals' 44. The Ravens marched 10 plays for a touchdown to make it 24-0.

"I felt rusty at first. I wasn't into the flow of the game," Mitchell said. "I get very few reps in practice. Akili is young, and [the Bengals] want to give him a lot of looks [in practice]. But it's my job to be ready to come in and give us a chance to win."

Cincinnati had no chance. On the first possession of the second half, Burnett beat Anderson and sacked Mitchell from behind, forcing a fumble that Tony Siragusa recovered at the Cincinnati 47. Then, late in the first half, Mitchell tried to hit Warrick deep, but Ravens cornerback Duane Starks held inside position and picked off the pass on the goal line. While the Ravens piled on 13 more points in the second half, the Bengals never advanced beyond the Ravens' 34.

Mitchell did not exactly wax nostalgic on his days in Baltimore.

"Shoot, I only played a game-and-a-half here," he said. "It's not like I did too much. I would have liked more of an opportunity in Baltimore than I got. It wasn't to be."

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