In the zone

Ravens win: Baltimore football team does what it takes to make it to conference championship.

January 09, 2001

SUDDENLY, Baltimore has turned Ravenous. Folks are aglow over the stunning performance of their gritty, defensive-minded football club that has captured this town's heart.

Sunday's 24-10 pasting of the favored Tennessee Titans in a hostile Nashville stadium was typical of this blue-collar team. When the offense stalled, the defense and special teams picked up the slack. The stars of this game tell it all.

There was Keith Washington, a back-up lineman who blocked two Tennessee field goals. There was unheralded Anthony Mitchell, a reserve defensive back, who seized the opportunity on one of those blocks to sprint 90 yards for the game-breaking touchdown. And there was linebacker Ray Lewis, who overcame a serious brush with the law to become the key member of what could be one of the best defensive groups in league history.

Nothing knits a community together quicker than a winning sports team. The Ravens have added another ingredient that has widespread appeal. They play as a team. The lowliest man on the roster can be a hero on any given Sunday. Even the highly paid superstars, such as Mr. Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, act like journeymen fighting and scratching for their jobs.

For Baltimore, this couldn't happen at a better time. The city is on an upswing. Support for a young mayor is strong. The outlook among citizens is optimistic. And now the entire region -- from Bel Air and Westminster to Odenton and Ellicott City -- feels unity with its compatriots in Patterson Park and Hamilton, Ashburton and Federal Hill.

The Ravens are the glue that binds. They rule this roost. For the past two months, they have been "in the zone" -- clicking as a team and finding some way to win every game. One more victory puts them in the Super Bowl, the ultimate in sports hyperbole. What a feast that would be for Baltimore and for this bunch of hard-working football players who have shared their infectious spirit and unquenchable determination with a city.

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