- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. The Miami Dolphins can look in a mirror and see the Baltimore Ravens.
These two teams are so similar it’s scary.
Both teams boast great defenses featuring tremendous middle linebackers. Neither team can effectively run the ball. Both offensive lines are shaky at best. Quarterbacks Jay Fiedler of the Dolphins and Elvis Grbac of the Ravens are adequate but don’t strike fear into opposing secondaries.
The biggest similarity is that both teams turn over the football. The Ravens are 12th out of 16 AFC teams in the takeaway/giveaway department with a net differential of minus-eight and the Dolphins 14th at minus-10.
Given how sloppy both teams are with the ball, the one that has better ball maintenance is likely to win today’s AFC wild-card game at Pro Player Stadium, where the Dolphins went 7-1 this season.
Ravens coach Brian Billick hopes to make sure it won’t be a Grbac interception that changes the course of this game. Grbac, whom the Ravens signed as a free agent last March, has thrown more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (15). The Ravens (10-6) went 8-1 this season when Grbac threw no or one interceptions.
“A year ago in Kansas City, I think he had a 2:1 touchdowns compared to interceptions [ratio],” Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. “This year it has not been that way. Why? I don’t know. He is a talented guy who has been in this [playoff] situation before when he was with San Francisco. … So this is not new territory for him. He will play well, and we have to be ready.”
The Dolphins’ defense had better be ready for the Ravens’ three-headed rushing attack of veteran Terry Allen, first-year man Jason Brookins and lightly used six-year pro Moe Williams. With Billick taking the ball out of the high-priced Grbac’s hands, the Ravens will return to the formula that delivered a Super Bowl last season: play great defense and run the football.
“I like where we are for the simple fact that we’ve gone back to the basics,” Ravens Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe said. “We’re going to run the ball. Elvis might be six of 18, but as long as we win, I don’t care. We’re not going to go out there and ask Elvis to throw the ball 30 or 40 times because that formula has proven it can’t win for us.”
Throwing against the NFL’s best secondary isn’t wise either. Dolphins cornerbacks Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain are the best in the business. Madison, along with middle linebacker Zach Thomas, were named to the Pro Bowl. This is Madison’s third consecutive trip to Hawaii.
Meanwhile, Surtain has three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. Safety Brock Marion led the Dolphins with five interceptions, including a 100-yard interception return. Marion was named first alternate to the Pro Bowl.
Billick is too smart to risk Grbac against such a formidable pass defense. Against the run, the Dolphins are the league’s 17th-rated unit.
“We’ve got the Super Bowl experience, and I think that will carry us,” Grbac said. “It’s going to be a prize fight. It’s going to be 15 rounds of knock down and drag out, kind of like Tennessee [in the Ravens’ 16-10 win on Nov. 12]. It’s going to be who is standing at the last bell. Their corners are very stout; we just need to make a couple plays.”

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