Steve McNair was off early in the game, but played better in the second quarter despite the failure to score in the first half. He was as erratic in the third quarter as he was in the first. He finished 26-for-43 for 227 yards and a late touchdown pass, but he could have been intercepted four times.
Guards Jason Brown and Chris Chester gave up too much ground on the interior and got pushed around. They had trouble handling tackle Sam Adams and end Bryan Robinson when he moved inside. The Ravens also had trouble handling weak-side blitzes and committed too many penalties.
Mark Clayton wasn't involved until the second half. Derrick Mason became the go-to receiver in the fourth quarter, finishing with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Clayton and tight end Todd Heap each had four catches for 29 yards. Heap has to do a better job of blocking on the back side.
Jamal Lewis had a couple of good runs and came close to breaking one or two. He ran hard but never got in sync. His timing was off with fullback Ovie Mughelli, his lead blocker. If the Ravens had gotten an early lead, Lewis would have been more effective. There were few cutback lanes for him.
Tackles Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata held their own against the run, but didn't get much pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer. Ends Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce were contained most of the night and held without a sack. The line hustled and made a lot of tackles downfield after short Bengals catches.
The Bengals did a good job of picking up the Ravens' blitzes, especially by linebacker Bart Scott. Someone always stood between Scott and Palmer. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis was not much of a factor, and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas spent a lot of time in pass defense.
The Ravens played too soft underneath. They got away with it in the previous meeting, but not last night. The Ravens still seem to have problems communicating with their safeties. Cornerback Chris McAlister and safety Ed Reed got faked out on T.J. Houshmandzadeh's 40-yard touchdown reception.
A poor snap caused kicker Matt Stover to go wide left on a 29-yard field-goal try at the end of the first half. Dennis Haley had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that hurt on a kickoff return, and Corey Ivy fumbled a punt in the fourth quarter. The loss of return man B.J. Sams (broken leg) is a big blow.