With Ogden's toe hurting again, so is plan for a ground game

The Baltimore Sun

CINCINNATI-- --Ravens Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden left last night's game early in the second quarter, limping from the field because of the turf toe injury he suffered near the end of last season.

There was no announcement by the Ravens on the severity of the injury last night, but it has to be of major concern for the team.

Ogden missed the final two games of the 2006 regular season because of the injury but came back to play in the Ravens' playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. He did not participate in the team's offseason camps or in training camp. The hope was that the extended rest would allow him to play in the opener.

But with his leaving early last night, he probably won't be ready to play for several more games. You also have to wonder about Ogden's career after this season.

He is in his 12th year and was close to retiring during the offseason. Several Ravens had to talk him into returning for one more season.

Too much balance?

It appears the Ravens are starting to believe their own hype about being balanced on offense. In the first half, they could have pounded the Cincinnati Bengals into submission with the running game, but the Ravens were slow to catch on.

The Ravens had 72 yards rushing in the first half on 13 carries, but McNair also attempted 17 passes. Instead of worrying so much about the script, the Ravens ought to just go with what is working.

Starting running back Willis McGahee looked sharp, and he made some tough yards on his own, especially after short receptions in the flat. But the Ravens didn't use McGahee the right way.

The most boneheaded decision came with 9:32 left in the game. On a third-and-one from the 35, McNair threw a high pass to receiver Derrick Mason, and the pass was picked off by defensive end Robert Geathers. A couple of plays later, the Bengals scored to go ahead 27-20.

The Ravens signed McGahee to a $40 million contract during the offseason, so why didn't they give him the ball then? Why didn't they just pound the Bengals on the goal line late in the game?

The Bengals are soft, and everybody knows that. Well, almost everybody. Either Brian Billick doesn't, or offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel doesn't. Take your choice.

Injured Lewis steps up

Pro Bowl inside linebacker Ray Lewis suffered a right triceps strain on the Bengals' second play from scrimmage, and he played virtually the rest of the game with one arm.

Lewis, though, played extremely well. He picked up where he left off in his final preseason game against the Washington Redskins. He ran well and played sideline to sideline. The Bengals didn't get much yardage running up the middle.

This was Lewis' best game since 2005.

Division drudgery

If you thought last night's game was ugly because it was the first game of the season, think again. It might be like this all season in the AFC North.

The Bengals have no defense. The Pittsburgh Steelers have no offense. The Cleveland Browns don't have a team. The Ravens will win this division running away.

Palmer struggles

In the first half, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer either took a shot to the head and didn't recover, or he borrowed some pages from the Ravens' playbook.

Twice the Bengals ran 1-yard patterns, and Palmer was constantly throwing behind receivers. The Ravens ought to thank Palmer for having a poor first half because it helped keep them in the game.

Palmer didn't look a lot better in the second half. He was constantly throwing behind receivers and into double teams. If he had been on his game, the Ravens would have gotten blown out.

Second effort

All right, the Ravens should have taken care of the ball better in the first half, when they fumbled three times, but you really can't blame rookie fullback Le'Ron McClain for fumbling after a reception with 6:53 left in the first quarter.

He was just trying to get more yards, and made a great second effort before he got train-wrecked and fumbled.

Hall of shame

I thought Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson would have had something better planned than wearing a "Hall of Fame" sports blazer on the sideline after his 39-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.

That was it?

He should have used the time to teach his teammates how to catch. The Bengals dropped at least six passes in the first half, two on screen plays.


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