- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Not once in the 35-year history of the Super Bowl has a team won three consecutive road games in the playoffs and then the big game.
The Baltimore Ravens believe they can rewrite history and defend their Super Bowl title with a run similar to last season's.
"Offense wins games, defense wins championships," said Ravens five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis. "Just ride us, baby. We'll get you there."
Still, there are some other pretty good defenses in the league, especially in the AFC. If the Ravens think they can ride their record-setting defense from a year ago to this year's Super Bowl, they had better consider that Sunday's opponent, the Miami Dolphins (11-5), and the Pittsburgh Steelers also boast great defenses and stand in the Ravens' way.
"The defense is showing signs of really stepping up in the way that it did last year and coming together, so that's a good sign," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Sunday at Miami's Pro Player Stadium in the AFC wild-card playoff round, the Ravens' second-rated defense will see how it stacks up against a solid defensive unit. The Dolphins finished with the league's fifth-best defense and led the NFL against the pass. The Dolphins have won five of their last six playoff games at Pro Player Stadium and went 7-1 at home this season.
"You can expect two excellent defenses," Billick said of Sunday's game. "I imagine the approach for both will be: play good defense, try to run the ball, let's don't make a mistake and make enough plays in the passing game to win it."
Last season, the Ravens won two straight road games to reach the Super Bowl and played nearly error-free football during the postseason. Now, the Ravens have to win three straight road games and are hardly playing mistake-free.
The Ravens went 8-1 this season when quarterback Elvis Grbac threw fewer than two interceptions in a game. In Monday's 19-3 playoff-clinching win over the Minnesota Vikings, Grbac did not throw an interception.
Billick praised Grbac's decision-making against the Vikings. Grbac, who has thrown more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (15) this season, appears to be Billick's man to the bitter end. With the Ravens' season now down to one game, Billick said he won't pull Grbac for backup Randall Cunningham, even if it means the season.
"You can't go into a game worrying about the first mistake if you are going to get hooked," Billick said. "Elvis knows that. He knows that he doesn't have to deal with that and he's not going to have to this game or the game after or the game after."
Part of last season's playoff formula was a punishing ground game behind rookie Jamal Lewis, who set a team record with 1,364 rushing yards. Following Monday's 212-yard rushing performance highlighted by Terry Allen's season-high 133 yards Billick feels confident the Ravens can advance deep into the playoffs by running the ball and playing sound defense.
Given Grbac's track record this season, Billick is not going to put the season in Grbac's hands unless it is absolutely necessary. Billick sees Allen as the answer because the 11-year veteran is hungry for a Super Bowl ring. Every game could be Allen's last.
"[Allen] is here for one reason he wants to get a Super Bowl," Billick said. "I trust that motivation. He's going to carry that all the way through the playoffs."
The fifth-seeded Ravens are almost in the same position they were last season. Nobody expects Baltimore because of its sporadic play to go all the way.
"We might not be the team to beat, but we're the team to deal with," said Ravens Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide