Notes: Mega game next

October 30, 2006

Facing one of those do or die games that come along every regular season, upbeat Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis set the tone for the week with his players Monday by harping on the theme he has preached since the offseason.

“We need to pull together, stick together, and stay together as a team,” said defensive tackle John Thornton as he and his teammates digested their third loss in the last four games. “It’s what he’s talked about all year. If guys had a good game, don’t look at other players because they didn’t have a good game. If one side of the ball doesn’t play well and the other side doesn’t, don’t make excuses."

Waiting for the 4-3 Bengals in Baltimore this Sunday are the AFC North-leading Ravens at 5-2 in a game that needs no description. But Lewis did anyway.

“About 15 or 16 teams would love to have the chance we have,” said middle linebacker Brian Simmons. “To be in first place in our division at the halfway point.”

Lewis brushed aside comments by right tackle Willie Anderson and running back Rudi Johnson that questioned why the Bengals ran the ball just 18 times in Sunday’s 29-27 loss to Atlanta.

“It’s that normal thing that the players go through, ‘It’s not me, it’s got to be somebody else,’ ’’ Lewis said of the frustration. “Rudi touched the ball 50 percent of the plays that he was in. That’s pretty good.”

As for Anderson and Johnson wanting to play smashball against the smaller Falcons line, Lewis offered, “We did pound Atlanta until they hit us for a seven-yard loss in the third quarter. Second and 17, I don’t know how much pounding we are going to do at that point. We did pound. We went up and down the field. We do certain things on offense and I appreciate their thoughts. But if they were always 100 percent right, we would really be in great shape. “

TIEBREAKERS: With the Bengals and Ravens in such a tight race and the third tiebreaker being common foes, the 12 games they share as well as the two they play are absolutely huge.

Record Head to Head: 0-0
AFC North Record: Bengals 2-0, Ravens 1-0.
Record in Common Games: Bengals 4-2 (beat Kansas City, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Carolina; lost to Tampa Bay and Atlanta; Ravens 5-2 (beat Tampa Bay, Oakland Cleveland, San Diego, New Orleans; lost to Denver and Carolina.
AFC Record: Bengals 3-1, Ravens 3-1.
WRIGHT RETURNS: It’s also a big game for Bengals backup quarterback Anthony Wright, returning after a three-week absence because of an appendectomy. He started seven games for the Ravens last season, including the 21-9 Bengals victory in Baltimore last season.

“It’s going to be nice to see it from the other side and be down on the sidelines,” Wright said. “There were no ill feelings. They didn’t re-sign me. They had a young quarterback (Kyle Boller) and they had a decision to make.”

The Ravens opted to let Wright go and sign former NFL MVP Steve McNair, “but I’m happy to be in this situation and to make a run at it,” Wright said.

INJURY UPDATE: Lewis ruled out center Rich Braham (knee), left tackle Levi Jones (knee), and wide receiver Kelley Washington (hamstring) for Baltimore ... Strong safety Kevin Kaesviharn has a bruised knee and is questionable ... After aggravating a neck stinger Sunday, Simmons is paying a visit to the doctor Tuesday to discuss treatments.

STILL NO P-DUB: There are still no indications the Bengals are going to sign wide receiver Peter Warrick after his workout last week.

In fact the Bengals are still looking. An NFC media source said Monday that among the players the Bengals worked out Monday were veteran wide receivers Kevin Johnson and Darius Watts.

Johnson, 30, an eight-year man out of Syracuse, finished last season in Detroit and caught just 17 balls in six games. During his first four seasons in Cleveland, where he was the first pick in the second round by the 1999 expansion Browns, Johnson caught at least 57 balls and had 669 yards. His high water mark came in 2001, when he caught a career 84 passes for his only 1,000-yard season and nine touchdowns. But at 5-11, 195 pounds, he’s not much bigger than Warrick.

The 6-2, 188-pound Watts is closer to the mold of the big receiver the Bengals prefer. A second-round pick of the Broncos in 2004, Watts caught 31 balls for 385 yards and a touchdown as a rookie before catching just two balls last season in six games and getting cut loose by the Broncos in a surprise move on Cutdown Day this season.