Bengals’ suspect defense pulls through on goal line

By Joe Kay

CINCINNATI – Six inches was all that separated the ball, the goal line and, most likely, an unwanted overtime.

A suspect Cincinnati Bengals defense refused to budge even one more inch, however, preserving a season-opening, 27-20 victory Monday night over the Baltimore Ravens.

As first impressions go, this was the best kind.

Maybe a defense that has been more of a downfall can hold its own this season.

“The whole offense was fired up for them because everybody keeps asking about the defense,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “There’s a lot of question marks. I think they answered every question.

“They flat-out won the game.”

They had plenty of help. Steve McNair had a hand in four turnovers, and the Ravens (0-1) had more than enough self-inflicted setbacks on offense to make their first game as defending AFC North champions a nightmare.

The difference: Cincinnati’s defense didn’t collapse in the frantic closing minutes.

The defense recognized that its first-game showing could have a lot of significance beyond just the win. A game like that could set a tone.

“(Baltimore) won the division last year,” defensive lineman Robert Geathers said. “We want it this year.”