- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Coincidence or not, but the last two running backs to rush for more than 100 yards against the Baltimore Ravens' stout defense accomplished the feat without defensive tackle Tony Siragusa in the lineup.
The Ravens take pride in stopping the run. Until last Sunday, the Ravens enjoyed a 50-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. Siragusa watched from the sideline last Sunday when Cincinnati's Corey Dillon topped the century mark and was also injured three seasons ago the last time a running back recorded 100 yards against the Ravens.
Siragusa, bothered by knee and calf problems, had his knee examined yesterday by a team physician and missed practice. The Ravens (9-5) list Siragusa as questionable and said there is a 50-50 chance he will play in Saturday's game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6).
"We'll have to see, it's day-to-day, but we'll have to wait and see," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Siragusa's status.
Siragusa split time between the sideline and Ravens owner Art Modell's skybox last Sunday and could only watch Dillon become the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens since James Allen of the Chicago Bears on Dec.20, 1998. Dillon gained 127 yards on 24 carries. Siragusa, 34, a 12-year veteran, was out with a neck injury for Allen's 100-yard game.
Siragusa may not the be core of the Ravens defense, but is a big part of the overall unit. The Ravens are highly successful when they make teams one-dimensional by taking away the run.
Saturday's game has playoff implications for both teams. A Ravens win clinches an AFC wild card. Conversely, a Buccaneers win keeps them alive in the NFC wild-card race.
Without Siragusa, the Ravens will have their hands full. The Buccaneers boast a Pro Bowl backfield with bruising fullback Mike Alstott (589 yards on 148 carries and nine touchdowns) and hard-to-tackle halfback Warrick Dunn (400 yards on 145 carries and three touchdowns).
Despite the Buccaneers having the league's next-to-last (30th) rushing attack, the Ravens know the Buccaneers bring a formidable one-two punch with their ground game.
"They do pose a challenge because they have a power runner [Alstott] and they have a quick runner like Dunn," Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware said. "They both pose different threats."
Last season, the Ravens' run-stuffing defense anchored by tackles Siragusa and Pro Bowl player Sam Adams set the NFL record for fewest rushing yards allowed (970) in a 16-game season. The Ravens defense allowed a 2.68-yard rushing average last season and Siragusa was a big reason why.
"[Siragusa] is a key cog in our defense and we would not want to go out on the field without him, but because of one person doesn't mean that he's the heart and soul of the defense," Adams said. "We are 11 people strong. One person disappears and we have a 100-yard rusher, but what happened the other 50 games? [Siragusa] wasn't here for the whole 50."
No, just 47 of those games. Close enough. Siragusa missed three games during the streak because of injury.
If Siragusa can't play Saturday, fourth-year man Lional Dalton would make his second consecutive start. An informal poll taken among select Ravens defensive starters favored Alstott as the Buccaneers running back of choice if they had to pick one to stop.
"It depends on how big the hole is," said non-committal Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett. "If it's a big hole, then Alstott, if it's a small hole, then Dunn."
Four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis was named AFC defensive player of the week for his performance in Sunday's 16-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Bengals. Lewis stopped two Bengals red-zone possessions with interceptions, recorded 12 tackles and defended three passes. Lewis' interceptions totaled 94 yards the second-most in team history.

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