Overlooked unit a bit defensive

17th-ranked defense made case against Miami

Raiders notebook

Pro Football

January 11, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

ALAMEDA, Calif. - For the second straight week, the Oakland Raiders defense is getting overshadowed.

Last week, it was the Miami Dolphins defense, which finished sixth in the league and has four Pro Bowl selections. Now, its the record-setting Ravens, who allowed just 165 points this season, best ever for a 16-game schedule.

The players were fine with getting overlooked last week but were a bit more belligerent when the topic of the Ravens defense came up.

"I've been answering a lot of questions about the Ravens defense," Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson said. "I just say the hell with their defense. It is all about what the Raiders are going to go out and do this weekend. If we play our game, we should win."

All the Raiders did last week was shut out the Dolphins for the first time in Miami's postseason history in a 27-0 win at Network Associates Coliseum. It was also the first playoff shutout for the Raiders.

The Raiders' run defense, which has been solid all year, held Dolphins running back Lamar Smith, who rushed for over 200 yards the week before, to four yards on eight carries. The pass defense, thought to be the weak link, produced a 90-yard Tory James interception return for a touchdown.

Oakland's run defense finished fifth in the league but the overall defense ranked 17th, the reason why they tend not to get much attention.

The Raiders have not allowed a touchdown in their past two games. Oakland has allowed just 285 yards a game over the last eight, 43 less than what the defense averaged for the season.

Ritchie will return

Starting fullback Jon Ritchie, whose sore ankle kept him out of the past three games, returned to a rain-drenched practice yesterday.

Ritchie, known more for his pass catching than running ability, has started 12 games this season. He has 26 catches for 173 yards.

"I think I should play Sunday," Ritchie said.

Ritchie has no rushing attempts this season, but five other running backs and fullbacks have at least 11 carries. Raiders coach Jon Gruden said after practice yesterday that backup Zack Crockett will start Sunday.

No special focus

Though they watched the Tennessee Titans block two Ravens punts last week, members of the Raiders special teams say there won't be any special focus on blocking punts this week.

"That doesn't mean we are going to go in there and try and block punts because we know they had some blocked punts," safety Johnnie Harris said. "We are going to do our same game plan and not change anything. If they call a block, then we are going to go. If they don't call it, that's cool with me, because the coaches know what they are doing."


Running back Napoleon Kaufman (leg) did not practice yesterday and is doubtful. Regan Upshaw (ankle), cornerback Darrien Gordon (toe) also did not practice. ... It rained here yesterday, and there is a good chance it will rain during Sunday's game. "We had not had a chance to practice with a wet ball very much this year," said Gruden. "Deep down, in some ways, I was pleased we got a chance to throw and catch in this weather."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.