BALTIMORE (AP) – The Baltimore Ravens needed only five minutes to take control of their game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Now they own a commanding lead in the AFC North.

The Ravens scored two quick touchdowns off turnovers and never trailed in a 26-20 victory Sunday, their second straight since coach Brian Billick took control of the offense.

After trailing 17-0, Cincinnati twice got within six points in the fourth quarter.

Steve McNair passed for 245 yards, Jamal Lewis scored a touchdown and Matt Stover kicked four field goals for the Ravens (6-2), who took a two-game lead over Cincinnati (4-4) in the AFC North.

Since Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and assumed play calling duties, the Ravens have scored 61 points and McNair has played brilliantly. He was 21-for-30 against the Bengals after going 17-for-23 in a 35-22 win over New Orleans last week.

Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer threw one touchdown pass, but was intercepted twice as the Bengals lost for the fourth time in five games. Cincinnati, which had won three straight over Baltimore, is at .500 for the first time since 2004.

A 71-yard pass from Palmer to Chris Henry set up a touchdown run by Rudi Johnson that made it 23-17 early in the fourth quarter, but Baltimore responded with a field goal by Stover with 8:25 left.

After Shayne Graham kicked a 31-yarder for the Bengals, Baltimore punted and Cincinnati took over at its own 24 with 3:21 to go. On fourth-and-4 from the 30, Ronnie Prude broke up a pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Houshmandzadeh screamed for an interference call, then displayed his frustration by taking off his helmet and angrily throwing it to the ground.

Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson had four catches for 32 yards to pass Cris Collinsworth and Issac Curtis and move into second place on the Bengals’ career list with 419 receptions. Carl Pickens tops the list with 530.

The game couldn’t have started better for the Ravens. Six plays after Cincinnati’s Chris Perry fumbled the opening kickoff at his 34, Lewis scored from the 2.

During the drive, Baltimore ran two plays without McNair – yet another product of Billick’s imaginative play calling. Lined up in a shotgun formation, running back Mike Anderson took the snap and gained 4 yards on two rushes before McNair returned and completed a 10-yard pass to Mark Clayton.

The Ravens went up 14-0 with their fourth defensive touchdown of the season.

On Cincinnati’s third offensive play, Samari Rolle intercepted Palmer’s overthrown pass at the Cincinnati 49 and ran 24 yards. As he was being tackled, he gave the ball to Ed Reed, who took it into the end zone.

Baltimore made it 17-0 in the second quarter when Stover kicked a 43-yard field goal to conclude a drive of 8 minutes, 20 seconds. It was the Ravens’ longest drive since their first of the season, in Tampa Bay.

A 26-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Houshmandzadeh enabled Cincinnati to close to 17-7 late in the half.

Two Stover field goals made it 23-7 before Graham kicked a 51-yarder for the Bengals, the first third-quarter points against Baltimore this year.

AP-ES-11-05-06 1611EST


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