BALTIMORE – The worst nightmare of many NFL offensive coordinators has been confirmed: the Baltimore Ravens’ defense is back,in a big way.
After smothering opposing offenses throughout last season en route to a Super Bowl victory,the Ravens D looked vulnerable early this year,starting with a 21-10 loss to upstart Cincinnati.
But Ray Lewis,Peter Boulware and Co. came back with a vengeance against Denver last week,humbling Brian Griese and the Broncos for a 20-13 win.
And Sunday they were even better,embarrassing the Tennessee Titans’ offense by denying Steve McNair and company an offensive touchdown and limiting them to just 185 yards for the game in a 26-7 victory.
The Ravens continued their dominance over Titans tailback Eddie George,who left the game at the end of the third quarter with a sprained right ankle after rushing for only 26 yards on 13 carries. George has had virtually no success against the Ravens in the past two years,rushing for only 210 yards on 68 carries in five meetings,including last year’s AFC playoff game.
“We know that every team is going to try to run the ball on us,” said Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary,who dropped McNair for two sacks Sunday. “But it is usually the same story,they have to go to the quick pass,and we just go after the quarterback.”
It is a wonder anybody would try to run the ball against the Ravens. Sunday was the 41st consecutive game,including four postseason contests,in which the Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher. Chicago’s James Allen was the last to hit the century mark against Baltimore when he rushed for 163 yards on Dec. 20,1998.
Ravens cornerback Duane Starks,who intercepted a Steve McNair pass with 4:54 seconds left in the fourth quarter for his second pick of the season,said his defense doesn’t have just George’s number,they have everyone’s.
“Eddie George was facing the best defense in the league,” he said. “And we have more improvements to make,and that is the scary thing.”
Veteran safety Rod Woodson,who led the Ravens with 10 tackles and an interception,concurred: “I think we had some plays,but we could have made some more big plays when we had to. But we are heading in the right direction.”
Baltimore defensive tackle Sam Adams said the key is attention to details.
“We are good against everything,” he said. “We are technically sound and we do all the little things correctly.”
hat attention to detail draws reverence from the Ravens offense.
“We see them working in practice and it is just amazing,” said Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac. “It is something that we try to do ourselves … They are just darn good,what else can I say?”
Despite the offense’s stellar showing Sunday,tight end Shannon Sharpe says his crew knows enough to stay out of the way.
“Our job is just not to mess it up,” he quipped. “Our job is to take care of the football,we are going to take care of the football.”
“I think today,we can once and for all put a squash on this,we can stop talking about who has the best defense.”