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Ravens Embrace Familiar Feeling

AFC: Baltimore routs Miami, 20-3, with a defense that played like the one that won a title last season.

January 14, 2002|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MIAMI — Stay tuned for more ranting and Ravens.

Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis, the mouth that roared and often times has bored, was sure the Pittsburgh Steelers were clear on this matter: The Ravens' 20-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in an AFC wild-card game Sunday was only the beginning.

Lewis after all, hadproclaimed earlier in the week that the Super Bowl was the Ravens' destiny. He was sure the Steelers had a clue what was in store next Sunday, when the two teams meet in Pittsburgh.

"They know our defense took us to the Super Bowl last season and the whole world saw what we did tonight," Lewis said.

Well, a few people in Istanbul might have missed it, but the 72,251 at Pro Player Stadium Sunday got an eyeful. This was how the Ravens mugged their way to the Super Bowl title a year ago.

A smothering defense that allowed only 151 total yards and forced three turnovers.

A fail-safe offense that put together touchdown drives of 90 and 99 yards. They finished with 226 yards rushing and got one vital strike from quarterback and hand-off specialist Elvis Grbac.

A bit of lip that may not be the stuff United Way commercials are made of, but it is a their way to success. They have the rings to prove it.

"We made a statement to the teams we have to play, Pittsburgh and who else is after that,'" cornerback Duane Starks said. "We're back. We never went anywhere."

Certainly, the Steelers have heard this all before. Like before two previous games against the Ravens.

"They won one and we one won," Lewis said. "No here we ago again. They know what's coming."

The Ravens, of course, did devote a little time to a post-mortem on the Dolphins. The general feeling was, from Coach Brian Billick on down, that the Ravens had not been shown the proper respect.

"We're 11-6 and win in the playoffs and we got a lot parts of this team that are much maligned," Billick said. "Figure that one."

The wrongfully accused, according to the Ravens, were obvious to them.

The offensive line. The Ravens hunkered down for a 17-play, 90-yard drive that consumed 8 minutes 51 seconds spread over the first and second quarters. They ran the ball 11 of the last 12 plays, with Terry Allen scoring on a four-yard run to erase a 3-0 deficit.

And Grbac.

The Raven defense put quarterback Trent Dilfer in a backpack and hauled him up the mountain last season. Dilfer's reward was to be the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl and lose his job.

Grbac was brought in, only to fail at livening up the offense and has been reduced to Dilfer status. The Ravens were perfectly able to pack up their Grbac in the old kit bag and smile Sunday. But he did make a few cameo appearances.

The Ravens started from their one midway though the third quarter and, on third and one from their 10-yard line, Grbac and the Ravens fooled everyone: They went upfield.

Travis Taylor beat cornerback Patrick Surtain and was wide open

"When the play came in, [center] Mike Flynn and I looked at each other and smiled," Grbac said. "You could see the guys up front were a little pumped up, and I was a little pumped up."

The Ravens got to the four, where the Grbac-Taylor duo worked again. This time Taylor cut inside of Surtain and snagged the pass in the back of the end zone.

Grbac, who was 12 of 18 for 133 yards, ran only two more pass plays the rest of the game.

"I think with everything going on and everybody talking about Trent Dilfer and me coming in here, I think it was a good opportunity to establish myself," Grbac said. "Quarterbacks make their marks in the playoffs."

That's a discouraging thought for Miami's Jay Fiedler. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 122 yards. He also fumbled in the third quarter, which set up the second of two Matt Stover field goals.

Those alone would have been enough for the Raven defense.

The only points the Ravens allowed came after Jermaine Lewis fumbled the opening kickoff, giving the Dolphins the ball on the 24-yard line. They got to the 15, then settled for the field goal.

"It was interesting to listen to all the conjecture before the game," Billick said. "I almost told the bus driver, to just go to airport and not even show up based on what these folks are saying this thing is over."

In other words.

"Yeah, I think some people have underestimated how this defense can come together," Billick said.

The Ravens did dominate the Dolphins, but were helped out by two Miami gaffes. Trailing, 7-3, in the third quarter and facing fourth and one, Dolphin Coach Dave Wannstedt chucked his conservative game plan and was prepared to go for the first down. But wide receiver Oronde Gadsden jumped before the snap.

The Dolphins were trying to rally from a 17-3 deficit in the fourth quarter when Fiedler threw what seemed like a long touchdown pass to James McKnight. But the ball bounced off McKnight's shoulder pads at the six-yard line and Starks snagged it for the interception.

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