Porous Bengals 'D' a sight for Ravens' sore eyes

The Baltimore Sun

The Cincinnati Bengals are in their usual place on defense, ranked 31st overall and allowing 397.1 yards a game. It's a mystery that a great defensive coach like Marvin Lewis can allow his team to perform so poorly every season.

But looking at the Bengals, can you name one player on the defense you have to game plan around? Cornerback Deltha O'Neal? Defensive end Robert Geathers?

After Monday night's debacle in Pittsburgh, this should be a good chance for the Ravens to find some offensive rhythm. If tight end Todd Heap plays, he'll have a big game because the Bengals always seem to lose tight ends in coverage.

And Cincinnati is equally bad in both defensive areas -- ranked 28th against the run and 28th against the pass -- so the Ravens should have plenty of options. Hopefully, all those choices won't short-circuit the brain of Ravens coach Brian Billick.

Ravens receiver Derrick Mason also could have a big day. Ditto for running back Willis McGahee and quarterback Steve McNair.

By the way, congratulations to McNair. He is the only person in Baltimore who could make Ravens fans clamor for backup quarterback Kyle Boller.

Meanwhile, the Ravens better be prepared to put some points on the scoreboard. If cornerback Chris McAlister misses a third consecutive game with a knee injury, the Bengals could light up the Ravens.

If you thought Pittsburgh wide receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes had their way with the Ravens, imagine what it will be like if Bengals receivers Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry are running around in the Ravens' secondary without McAlister.

In the past, even with McAlister, the Bengals have lit up the Ravens. This could be sheer paradise for Cincinnati on Sunday. That could all change, though, if Henry acts up again before Sunday.

He was suspended for the first eight games of the season for repeatedly violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Earlier this week, he allegedly was involved in an altercation with a parking attendant over parking his car without paying in Bellevue, Ky.

Regardless of what happened, I can't figure out why Henry would be involved with such a matter. He reminds me of former Ravens running back Bam Morris, who could find trouble even when he wasn't looking for it.

Just shut up

Even after being beat down and embarrassed on national TV against the Steelers, the Ravens continue to trash talk with their AFC North rivals.

All of this talk about killings and threats is absurd. Is this the NFL or the Crips and the Bloods?

The Ravens took a butt-whipping, and it's time to move on. It happens. It's time for the head coaches to step up and tell the kiddies to tone it down. The game Monday night reminded me of the penalty-filled game two years ago in Detroit where the Ravens whined for nearly a week after losing to the Lions.

No matter what, the Ravens are always chirping.

Cut off at the pass

During the offseason, Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel expressed high hopes for second-year receiver Demetrius Williams to become the team's top deep threat, but that hasn't come close to happening.

Williams dropped two passes against the Steelers, but they were short passes anyway. He had one catch for 18 yards in the previous game against the Buffalo Bills. Williams has 19 receptions for 285 yards this season.

It's like the Ravens are wasting his talent. Williams had a strong training camp and ran disciplined routes. More important, he showed toughness by fighting off stronger cornerbacks and making catches over the middle.

But in the past three weeks, he has gradually disappeared. The Ravens did something other defenses couldn't do in the preseason: They have taken Williams out of the game.

And, while on the subject of Neuheisel, promoting him to coordinator was to help pave a way for him to become a head coach in the NFL or college football again.

But with the way this offense has performed, it looks like Neuheisel might have to exclusively hit the college ranks again.

Silent receiver

A year ago, the Ravens were 13-3, and receiver Derrick Mason occasionally complained about not getting enough passes thrown his way.

Now, Mason is tied with Houshmandzadeh for the league lead in receptions with 62, but the team has struggled and the offense has been horrendous.

We have not heard one bad word about the offense from Mason.

Interesting, huh? mike.preston@baltsun.com

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