Defense dismantles Denver once again

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Ravens bully Broncos for third straight season

Reed gets block, pickoff

Notebook

Nfl Week 4

Ravens 34, Broncos 23

October 01, 2002|By Paul McMullen and Brent Jones | Paul McMullen and Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' victory over the Denver Broncos last night revolved around all sorts of wacky statistical superlatives, and one familiar factor: a nasty defense.

For the third straight year, the Ravens came out and pushed around Denver. The Broncos' previous visit here came in the AFC wild-card game on Dec. 31, 2000, when the Ravens began their run to Super Bowl XXXV with a 21-3 victory. One of the Ravens' finest moments during the 2001 season came at Invesco Field at Mile High, where Ray Lewis and the gang limited the Broncos to a field goal over the last three quarters in a 20-13 victory.

There was more of the same at Ravens Stadium last night, and as far as the winners were concerned, it was a continuation of what has been the franchise's strong suit, one that was forgotten during an 0-2 start. In a season-opening loss, the Ravens defense allowed Carolina one touchdown. In the second week, Tampa Bay's offense never got in the end zone.

Denver entered last night's game as one of the three unbeatens, but Mike Shanahan's dinky passing game wasn't setting the NFL on fire.

Quarterback Brian Griese finished with decent numbers (35-for-53 for 328 yards) as the Ravens' defense went prevent and got no help from their own offense in the second half. He threw a touchdown pass for the 19th straight game, but also was picked off three times. It was one of the big turnarounds in the game, as first-year starter Chris Redman didn't throw an interception.

Tony Weaver rattled Griese with a sack on the Broncos' second possession, and interceptions by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Gary Baxter also cooled Denver.

Reed embraces `showcase'

Reed, a safety, showcased his big-play ability last night, blocking a punt early in the second quarter.

Reed used a swim move, utilizing his arms and legs to get past Broncos safety Kenoy Kennedy, then had a clear path to punter Tom Rouen's foot.

The first punt block in team history set up the Ravens' second touchdown. Reed, the Ravens' first-round pick out of Miami, recorded nine interceptions in 11 games last year and got his first one as a Raven in the fourth quarter against Denver.

"It felt like the national championship game for me," Reed said. "Monday night, there ain't a better time to showcase your talent. I came out and did my job and helped the team win."

Shuffled line prospers

All the changes to the offensive line went largely unnoticed.

Right tackle Ethan Brooks started his first game for the Ravens, and Edwin Mulitalo moved back to his natural position of left guard.

The Ravens only allowed one sack and that came from defensive back Tyrone Poole on a blitz.

"For the most part, I had an all right game," Mulitalo said. "I would say I graded above a C. I played tackle two games and we lost, so hopefully this was a good sign."

J. Lewis carries load

Jamal Lewis had season highs with 25 carries for 78 yards and his first touchdown of the season.

"Coach [Brian Billick] said he was going to give me 25 carries this game to establish a rhythm, and it was good for me," Lewis said. "I was able to get that rhythm going, get a feel for that defense and soften them up a little bit."

Denver's defense, which came in averaging only 47.3 yards rushing per game, gave up 84.

Sharpe: Composure lost, too

Denver's Shannon Sharpe expressed disappointment in the play of some of his present teammates against his former teammates, particularly in a foul-filled second quarter during which the Broncos were penalized 51 yards on one drive. The five penalties in the drive was an NFL high this season.

Among the infractions was Deltha O'Neal's ejection for bumping an official, Trevor Pryce's taunting and John Mobley's late forearm shiver to the face of a grounded Jamal Lewis - all during the same series.

"We lost our composure, too, and Mike [Denver coach Mike Shanahan] is not going to be pleased with that," Sharpe said. "I'm a little disappointed in the way some of our veteran players handled some situations, but you know what? There's nothing you can do about it now but learn from it."

C. Brown gets start

Linebacker Cornell Brown made his first start of the season and recorded the game's opening tackle from scrimmage.

Brown started in place of Shannon Taylor, a move the Ravens coaches hinted could happen in the aftermath of the team's previous game against Tampa Bay on Sept. 15.

Broncos' scheme unravels

Broncos defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes introduced his new two-deep scheme last night.

Rhodes, widely considered one of the best coordinators in the NFL, had the top-ranked rushing defense heading into last night's game, and the success comes largely from his front seven. The Broncos generally keep both of their safeties deep to protect against the big play.

"I know him back from his San Francisco days," Shanahan said of Rhodes. "He's a hard worker. He understands the game, and he's been a winner in a lot of different organizations."

Extra points

Ravens inactives were Dameon Hunter, Sam Gash (hamstring), Lamont Brightful, Bernardo Harris, Mike Collins, Damion Cook, Terry Jones (hand) and Howard Green. For the Broncos, Blake Brockemeyer started in place of Matt Lepsis at right tackle. ... The Ravens saluted Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams in pre-game introductions last night. ... Though he was questionable heading into the game, Brandon Stokley played on his sore ankle. ... The 69,538 in attendance last night was a Ravens regular-season record, second only to the 2000 playoff game against the Broncos. ... The 31 points in the second quarter was a team record.

Sun staff writer Lem Satterfield contributed to this article.

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