Priest Holmes has turned the Cincinnati Bengals defense into his personal plaything.
The unheralded running back who piled up 173 yards against the Bengals in his first NFL start topped himself on Sunday with a record-setting performance, piling up 227 yards as the Baltimore Ravens grounded out a 20-13 win.
It was the NFL's top rushing total this season, the most ever by a Raven and the most ever against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-9), who have the league's worst run defense.
In the two starts against Cincinnati, Holmes -- an undrafted free agent out of Texas last year -- has piled up 400 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
"He has our number," defensive lineman Michael Bankston said. "In some way or some fashion, he has our number. We've played a lot of great backs. We're making him a great back."
Holmes' greatness begins and ends against the Bengals. Since his performance on Sept. 27, he had not reached 100 yards against anyone else. He has 400 yards and three touchdowns against the Bengals, but only 290 yards, a 3.2-yard average and no touchdowns against everyone else.
As in the first game, the Ravens (4-7) got Holmes off and running by blowing huge holes in Cincinnati's line.
"I would say that," Holmes said. "Any running back watching this game would have loved to have been in my position."
He did perhaps his most important running at the end, when the Ravens got the ball on their 5-yard line with 8:27 to play. Holmes carried 11 times as the Ravens rolled to the Cincinnati 15, wher Jim Harbaugh went to his knee to end the game.
"When you start on your 5 and end the game with the ball on their side of the field, that's just a thing of beauty," said Harbaugh, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 92 yards with one interception.
The ravens swept the Bengals for the first time in their three-year history and dashed Cincinnati's hopes that a change in quarterbacks could salvage the end of its season.
| Baltimore fullback Roosevelt Potts celebrates a 12-yard touchdown reception against Cincinnati. (AP) |
Baltimore's Ray Lewis, who signed a contract extension Thursday that made him the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, had two interceptions and sacked Paul Justin once as the Ravens dominated the game up front.
"I got the contract out of the way," Lewis said. "When you do something like that, it really relaxes you. You can just play for the love of it."
The Bengals felt their fans' wrath as they clinched another losing record in the '90s. The first non-capacity crowd at Cinergy Field -- 52,571 tickets were sold -- booed loudly as Holmes turned in the eighth 100-yard game against Cincinnati's defense this season.
After the game, coach Bruce Coslet was asked if he has considered quitting.
"You're kidding," Coslet said. "I'm not a quitter. I asked the team not to quit. It never entered my mind."
coslet benched quarterback Neil O'donnell because he had produced only two field goals in the last two games. Things didn't get much better behind Justin, who was under constant pressure in his first start and completed 18-of-32 for 202 yards with two interceptions.
Coslet said he's inclined to start Justin again next week against Jacksonville.
"The bottom line is you have to win the football game. That's all that matters," Justin said. "We had to find a way to get the ball into the end zone."
Holmes got the Ravens rolling on their first drive, when he tore through a huge hole and went 56 yards, the longest run in Ravens history. By halftime, he had 142 yards and had closed in on Bam Morris' club record of 176.
"I wouldn't say i compete for records, but I do love winning," Holmes said.
Holmes also broke a 38-yard run -- he spun in a circle to break Sam Shade's tackle -- that set up his 1-yard plunge and put the Ravens ahead 17-3 at halftime.
Harbaugh threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Roosevelt Potts -- the running back's first TD since 1995 -- during the first half, when the Ravens lost receiver Michael Jackson to a sprained foot. X-rays found no fracture.
Justin's best moments came during a 56-yard touchdown drive tat cut it to 17-13 midway through the third quarter. His 20-yard completion to Carl Pickens set up Brandon Bennett's 2-yard run.
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