THE RAVENS are no longer just holding opposing running backs to less than 100 yards rushing, but also forcing them to quit.
Cincinnati's Corey Dillon waved off then-coach Bruce Coslet about going back into the game Sept. 24. Nearly a month later, Tennessee's Eddie George lasted one rush against the Ravens before injuring his knee, but mysteriously healed quickly enough to rush for 71 yards against the Washington Redskins a week later.
On Sunday, George lasted almost two quarters before Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis blasted him on a screen pass, and he was virtually not heard from again.
Against the Ravens' No. 1-ranked defense, there is no place to run, no place to hide, especially in the middle, where giant tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa don't allow enough room for a small beam of light to shine. There may not be a more complete and dominating pair in the league.
Combined, this is about 700 pounds of the most agile, yet immovable, humanity in the world.
"Easy - that's how they make my job," said Lewis, the team's leading tackler and a member of the AFC Pro Bowl squad the last three seasons. "They give me the ability to run and make plays. They both are good players, but combined, they are a special talent."
Who comes close to these guys?
Buffalo's Pat Williams and Ted Washington are great run stoppers, but don't rush as well. Miami has a formidable duo with Daryl Gardener and Tim Bowens, but Gardener has been bothered by injuries. The same for Carolina's tandem of Eric Swann and Sean Gilbert.
Washington's pair of Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson haven't been as consistent and New Orleans' La'Roi Glover and Norman Hand aren't as physical. Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland are solid but haven't played the run that well this season.
That leaves only Oakland's Grady Jackson and Darrell Russell, which puts Siragusa and Adams in pretty good company.
"Those guys are big, which is why they are so hard to move," said Dallas Cowboys guard Larry Allen, considered by many to be the best offensive lineman in the game. "They remind me of Green Bay's old defensive line with Gilbert Brown and John Jurkovic. I don't exactly know what they're trying to do on defense, but they must be doing something right because they're No. 1 in the league in run defense, and No. 1 overall."
It's intriguing to watch Siragusa and Adams play. Neither is a practice player. They look like middle-aged men who couldn't push themselves away from the dinner table or the bar. But the protruding stomachs are deceiving. They're both great athletes.
Siragusa, 6 feet 3 and 340 pounds, is a tough guy whose main responsibility is to take on blockers and free up Lewis. It's a dirty job, but not even I-95 during rush hour creates more backups than Siragusa.
Adams, 6-3 and 330, worked with Pro Bowl tackle Cortez Kennedy in Seattle, whose style was much different from Siragusa's.
"Cortez was a different beast," Adams said. "He was quick, agile, and going to be all over the place. You never knew what he was going to do. Goose is strong, stable. He is there to stop to run and not going to be moved from that gap. On passing downs, Cortez was always shooting a gap, going to swim a guy, going in and out. Goose is going to go through you. You're going to have to move him."
Siragusa works all the angles. A former New Jersey state wrestling champion, he has amazing balance and knows how to use his hands and leverage. Adams is even more of an athlete.
When Adams jogs onto the field, he looks like one of those old weeble-wobble toys. But is there any tackle more explosive off the snap than Adams?
He is so quick he often looks offside. He came from Seattle with the reputation of taking plays off, but that has only happened in Baltimore when he is resting on the sideline.
He is the complete tackle, either disrupting running plays with penetration or pummeling quarterbacks. The athletic ability is hereditary. Adams' mother, Marilyn, played college basketball at Prairie View A&M. His father, Sam Sr., played offensive guard for the New England Patriots from 1972 through 1980. His younger brother, Jerry, is an offensive tackle at the University of Washington. He is 6-9 and weighs 450.
Sam Adams Jr. is the runt of the family.
"With two offensive linemen in the family, I had to be a good pass rusher to get to the food table," said Adams, laughing. "But my dad taught me everything. He laid a foundation for me."
"Sam takes more chances than I do," said Siragusa, who is seventh on the team with 46 tackles and also has a fumble recovery this season. "He has great explosiveness, and he'll do a lot more penetrating, while I try to stay at the line of scrimmage, tying up one or two guys. Teams are very much aware of where Sam is on the field."