Surprising Bengals will be tough test for Ravens heading into playoffs

By By Mike Preston

The Baltimore Sun (MCT)

Published: Thursday, Dec. 29 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

"It has been a big year for me and for this team, and it's our job to find a way to get this last step," said Dalton, who has been sacked 24 times this season, third fewest in the NFL.

Another major difference has been the Bengals defense. Lewis noted that there are five former first-round draft picks starting. The Bengals get pressure with their front four of Robert Geathers, Frostee Rucker, Geno Atkins and Peko. Cincinnati has 44 sacks this season, third best in the league.

They use a 4-3 scheme and play a lot of two-deep coverage, which has given the Ravens problems. Plus, the Bengals know that anytime they play Baltimore, it's a big game for Lewis, who won a Super Bowl here with the Ravens in 2000.

"If they lose, they know they don't want to be around me," Lewis said with a laugh.

Lewis still has a fondness for Baltimore. He often comes back during the offseason as a guest speaker for companies or colleges. He likes what the Ravens have done by adding rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith and using tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. He says the Ravens' front seven on defense is one of the best in the NFL.

But the Bengals have only one goal now. They've won six of their past nine meetings against the Ravens.

"I think it would be huge," said Bengals running back Cedric Benson. "You can only imagine what (a win Sunday) would do to some egos around here. But I think as far as the young guys, the team as a whole, the momentum and the bonding that it will actually do for the guys, for the team, is hard to even put in words. This is a team that has had a lot of adversity, wasn't expected to do much this year. It would just be kind of a good capper, a great building block to the future."

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