It was a personal-best game for Ravens running back Chester Taylor yesterday, but he was left feeling empty.
Taylor rushed for a career-high 139 yards on 23 carries, a 6.0-yard average that was easily his finest in the four games he has started in place of Jamal Lewis this season.
But the Ravens' blown lead in the last two minutes and the Bengals' subsequent 27-26 win prompted Taylor to make a beeline out of the locker room, with his day's work little more than an afterthought.
"It don't feel the same as if we would have won and I'd had 100 yards," Taylor said. "I did all I can to help the team. Unfortunately at the end, they pulled it off."
The loss withstanding, it was Taylor's day in all other aspects - even seeing a lost fumble on the Ravens' go-ahead field-goal drive late in the fourth quarter nullified by an illegal-contact penalty on Bengals cornerback Tory James that had nothing to do with the play.
Taylor and the Ravens' running game had been bottled up for the better part of the season, but the 192 total rushing yards yesterday were a season high and the offensive line looked as if it was wearing down the Bengals' defense in the fourth quarter.
Fifty-two of Taylor's yards came in the last quarter, including a 47-yard run that was the longest of his career.
"The offensive line did a great job," Taylor said. "All I had to do was read the holes and the blocks. Luckily, I got all the yards that I could get."
Backup running back Jamel White added 43 yards on six carries, the most impressive of which came on a 16-yard run on the opening drive of the third quarter that finished a yard shy of the end zone.
Taylor scored by diving over the Bengals' defense on the next play.
"Our offensive line was just dominating through the game," White said.
Next for Ravens
Matchup: New York Giants (5-7) vs. Ravens (7-5)
Site: M&T; Bank Stadium
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line: Ravens by 9 1/2
Series: Ravens lead 2-0
Last meeting: Ravens won, 34-7, on Jan. 28, 2001, in the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
BUSY DAY FOR STOVER
With kickoff specialist Wade Richey inactive, Matt Stover handled all the kickoffs and even attempted his first punt of the season in the second quarter.
The Ravens lined up in field-goal formation on a fourth-and-4 from the Bengals' 33, but center Joe Maese snapped the ball to Stover, who punted it into the end zone.
"There was a bigger wind in the first half than there was in the second coming in my face," Stover said. "That was a planned call before they ran that third down. We knew we were going to go in there and field-goal pooch it. But I hit it too hard."
Stover, who moved into 12th place on the NFL's all-time scoring list, hit all four of his field-goal tries, including a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter that gave the Ravens the lead with less than two minutes left. The kick came after a 10-yard holding penalty on Casey Rabach.
"I just laughed," Stover said. "The conditions were good, the field was in good shape. I just had to kick it the same way."
Right guard Mike Flynn, who rotated again with Bennie Anderson, dislocated a finger in the first half but was able to return. Flynn started his second straight game. ... Cornerback Gary Baxter hurt his shoulder in the second quarter and was replaced briefly by Corey Fuller. Baxter's injury is not believed to be serious. Fuller and Ray Walls split time as the nickel (fifth) defensive back in place of Deion Sanders. ... Sanders, Richey, Anthony Wright, Dave Zastudil, Jamal Lewis, Orlando Brown, Cornell Brown and Dwan Edwards were the Ravens' inactive players.
HEAP BACK ON FIELD
Tight end Todd Heap returned from an ankle injury that had kept him sidelined since the second game of the season. Heap, who caught three passes for 22 yards yesterday, estimated he played about 20 to 30 snaps.
"In general, I felt pretty good," Heap said. "I was running routes and it felt good. I'll be ready to go next week."
Kyle Boller threw five passes in Heap's direction, including one that came close to converting a second-and-6 in the fourth quarter. The ball slipped out of Heap's grasp when formre Ravens safety Kim Herring made contact, though it appeared Herring's arm was wrapped around the tight end before the play.
"It was a veteran move by Kim Herring," Heap said. "He had all my momentum going away from the ball before it got there. I'll have to see it, but I know for sure he had a hold of me. Just when, we'll have to see."
REED DROP IS A RERUN
The next time Ed Reed makes an interception against the Bengals, he might want to consider just taking a knee.
Reed was stripped from behind by tight end Tony Stewart after a third-quarter pickoff of Carson Palmer at the Ravens' 15. Reed was carrying the ball loosely when Stewart hit him at the Ravens' 39. Chris McAlister alertly scooped up the bouncing ball and ran 64 yards for a touchdown.
Two years ago, T.J. Houshmandzadeh stripped Reed as he was headed to the end zone after an interception.
"I was glad he was there to pick up the fumble," Reed said of McAlister. "It could have been ugly. It was still ugly. I've got to protect the ball."
ANOTHER BIG DAY
T.J. Houshmandzadeh continued his mastery of the Ravens' defense, recording a 100-yard receiving day for the second time this year (the only two times he has hit hat plateau for his career).
Houshmandzadeh made 10 catches for a game-high 171 yards and a fourth-quarter, go-ahead touchdown. His first career touchdown pass also came at the Ravens' expense in 2002. Fellow starting receiver Chad Johnson also had 10 catches.
"We just went out and made some plays," Houshmandzadeh said. "We had to keep up with them because they put up some points in the third quarter. We knew we could make the plays, and we got in a rhythm and were able to make them and pull it out."
When Cincinnati's late fourth-quarter drive started so poorly, it seemed the Ravens' defense was in pretty good shape.
Defensive end Tony Weaver sacked Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer for an 8-yard loss on Cincinnati's first play from scrimmage with 1:37 left. Time was running and the Bengals were at their 26-yard line, but Palmer found an open T.J. Houshmandzadeh standing alone near the sideline for a 32-yard gain on the ensuing play.
"On the defensive line, we always preach that if you get a sack in the last two minutes, the game is over," Weaver said. "For us to go out and lose, it's unimaginable. But that's what happened. They went out and executed, and you have to tip your hats to them."
THE WRATH OF M. LEWIS
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis apparently let loose on T. J. Houshmandzadeh after the receiver was hit with an excessive-celebration penalty in the fourth quarter folllowing his 9-yard touchdown catch.
Chad Johnson said he overheard Lewis giving Houshmandzadeh a profanity-laced earful, but Houshmandzadeh may have been more of a scapegoat for frustration that had been brewing in Lewis during the game.
The penalty helped the Ravens start their next drive at their 46-yard line.
"They got field position, and then we got the [illegal] contact penalty, where we can't get one called for us, but for some reason, it keeps going the other way," Lewis said. "I saw the grabbing of [Matt] Schobel and Houshmandzadeh down the middle of the field all day. I guess when we become a better team, we'll get more of those calls."