- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. The Baltimore Ravens are the holders of the Vince Lombardi Trophy and coach Brian Billick believes the valuable experience his team accumulated on the road to victory in Super Bowl XXXV will carry over to this year's playoff drive.
The Ravens' convincing win over the Miami Dolphins in Sunday's AFC wild-card game at Pro Player Stadium is a start. Just like last season's playoffs, the Ravens dominated with a crunching defense and a methodical, grind-it-out rushing attack.
Hey, it works. Ask the Dolphins.
"It has to do with our experience, our veterans, what we've been through," Billick said. "Since the day we won the Super Bowl, this team has faced nothing but being told what they cannot do, because of being Super Bowl champs, then the schedule, then the injuries, whatever it is. And they fought through all that and you saw some of that yesterday.
"Our strength is clearly our experience right now across the board. You gain a certain level of experience winning a Super Bowl and being in circumstances where we've been before where half the [playoff] field are just getting used to the playoffs it is a new experience for them and this is a new experience for this Pittsburgh team."
Sunday's AFC divisional playoff showdown against the top-seeded Steelers (13-3) at Heinz Field bears a striking resemblance to the road the Ravens traveled last year. Last season, the wild-card Ravens were forced to play the top-seeded and 13-3 Tennessee Titans at Adelphia Coliseum, where the Titans had lost just one game in the stadium's history (to the Ravens a few weeks earlier).
On Nov. 4, the Ravens beat the Steelers 13-10 at Heinz Field, the only home loss in the stadium's one-year history. Last season, the Titans boasted the league's top defense. The Steelers hold that honor this season, and the Ravens finished both seasons with the NFL's second-rated defense. Last season, the Titans won the AFC Central. The Steelers were crowned Central champs this season.
Last year in the wild-card round, the Ravens pummeled the Denver Broncos 21-3. Sunday's blowout win over the Dolphins was 20-3.
There are certainly enough similarities to make a strong case for the Ravens in this season's playoffs. However, Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Ravens as 5-point underdogs against the Steelers.
"Any time you can perform well, it enhances your confidence," Billick said. "The defense has a great deal of confidence right now. And they have that look in their eye, they're carrying themselves the tempo and the focus at practice."
In Sunday's win, Jermaine Lewis' fumble of the opening kickoff directly led to Miami's only points of the game. The Ravens defense limited the Dolphins to 151 total yards their second-lowest figure for a playoff game and just 46 rushing yards.
That's the kind of defense that carried the Ravens to the franchise's first Super Bowl victory last January.
"Anybody who has played [against the Ravens defense], and certainly Pittsburgh would fall into that category, is going to say, 'Oh boy, we've seen that before,'" Billick said. "I don't know if it scared anybody, but it definitely puts them mindful of the way we played defense last year through the playoffs and probably should."
Without question, the Ravens' defense is still the team's strength. Now, can the Ravens run on the Steelers? In two games this season against Pittsburgh, the Ravens rushed for just 99 yards 41 and 58 yards, respectively. In the Ravens' 13-10 win against the Steelers, Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac and running back Terry Allen did not play.
"I would think so; they're the No.1 seed and pressure comes with that," Billick said when asked if all the pressure is on the Steelers this week. "No matter how you calculate it, they deserve that No.1 ranking. The expectations are high. Whether you jump off a 30-story building or a 300-story building, the result is the same. The expectations are higher for them because nobody expected us to be here."

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