- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

BALTIMORE What has been mysteriously missing from the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens this season returned for yesterday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The swagger is back.
Ray Lewis made sure of it. Lewis, the Ravens' four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker, spoke to his team before kickoff and, in so many words, told his underachieving teammates to follow his lead. And what a lead it was.
Lewis intercepted two passes inside the Ravens 20 he returned them for 94 yards, the second most in team history and finished with eight solo tackles to lead the Ravens to a 16-0 victory over the Bengals before 68,987 at PSINet Stadium.
"Ray addressed the team as we went out," Ravens coach Brian Billick said after his team's third straight home shutout of the Bengals. "Ray doesn't do that a lot. You never have to worry about Ray's emotion. Ray wanted to make sure everybody came into this game with the same passion he did."
With the win, the Ravens (9-5) are in control of an AFC wild-card spot and appear to be a playoff lock if they beat either the up-and-down Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) Saturday in Tampa, Fla., or the reeling Minnesota Vikings (5-9) the following week in Baltimore.
This was the type of performance the Ravens had been waiting for. It also avenged a 21-10 loss to the Bengals (4-10) in Week 2 in Cincinnati. With the Ravens in the thick of the playoff race, the win showed glimpses of last season's Super Bowl run when the Ravens dominated opponents in December and January.
"The thing is, we're getting ready for the playoffs, we played the way we needed to play today," Lewis said. "We came out and established what we needed to establish playing great defense and not turning the ball over on offense."
The only thing the Ravens defense didn't do was stop the run.
The Bengals' Corey Dillon became the first running back in the last 51 games to rush for more than 100 yards against the Ravens. Dillon gained 127 yards on 24 carries to become the first back to reach the milestone against Baltimore since the Chicago Bears' James Allen on Dec. 20, 1998. The Ravens gladly exchanged the streak for the shutout.
Meanwhile, the Ravens struggling ground game held its own. Running back Terry Allen scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter for the game's only touchdown. Ravens kicker Matt Stover booted three field goals 43, 29 and 43 yards for all the offense the Ravens needed.
The Ravens' touchdown drive was impressive. Leading 3-0, the Ravens went 80 yards in nine plays that consumed 4:35. The drive was aided by three Cincinnati defensive penalties that resulted in two first downs.
Allen, who rushed for 91 yards on 22 carries, scored on a short run that was designed to go behind left guard Edwin Mulitalo, but he broke back to the middle when he saw the Bengals defense overpursue the play. Center Mike Flynn blasted Bengals middle linebacker Takeo Spikes to clear the way for Allen's team-record 11th rushing touchdown of the season and the 73rd of his career.
"The defense tried to overpursue, so I just cut back and took the lane that was there and get behind your pads and ride in with your center," Allen said. "I saw Flynn get his block so that's why I rode in with the center."
The Ravens offense accumulated 305 total yards. Quarterback Elvis Grbac completed 16 of 30 passes to eight different receivers for 181 yards. But more importantly, the Ravens took care of the ball, unlike in the teams' first meeting when Baltimore had six turnovers in its 21-10 loss.
Yesterday, the Ravens committed just one turnover albeit a costly one when Grbac was sacked and fumbled at the Bengals 17 on a third down and goal at the Bengals 7.
"Hopefully, this will be the game that kind of defines us," said Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware, who collected two sacks. "There is not too much upward we need to go. We just need to maintain and say this is the standard."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide