Ravens offense both pointless and irrelevant

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Ravens 17, Redskins 10

October 11, 2004|By DAVID STEELE

LANDOVER - They're going to get away with it.

It didn't look that way for the first four games of the season. It really didn't look that way last week against the Chiefs. But it sure looks that way now.

The Ravens are going to win with lots of defense, a healthy dose of special teams and no offense whatsoever.

"It's just that simple, the same things we've had the last four or five weeks," agreed Ray Lewis. He then ran off the aforementioned factors, or lack thereof, in the familiar formula. He did it a lot more diplomatically and with a lot more respect paid to his beleaguered comrades on the other side of the ball - and, in this case, the other side of the visiting locker room at FedEx Field.

The ingredients were the same, and so were the results. "We can live with it," Lewis concluded.

Why not, after what they pulled off with last night's 17-10 victory over the Redskins?

Although it was hideous to watch most of the evening, it was breathtaking in its own way. The Ravens offense produced two of the worst quarters imaginable, made a 10-0 halftime deficit seem like 20-0, and had a stadium filled with Joe Gibbs supporters turning back the clock a couple of decades.

But everyone in the building made the same mistake: They assumed that the outcome of this game actually had anything to do with what the Ravens did on offense. When it was all over, when the tables had been turned and flipped and scattered and shattered and the Redskins run out of their own stadium, that horrendous half by Kyle Boller, Jamal Lewis and their cohorts had been reduced to a mere speed bump by their own teammates.

Afterward, reporters lingered in the front portion of the Ravens' locker room only long enough to figure out where the back portion was, where the defense dressed. The masses funneled from one room to the other as if a plug had been pulled. How fitting.

In light of everything, the Ravens can probably live with that, too.

The Ravens' defense and the special teams pretty much rendered both offenses irrelevant - the Redskins' and their own. In the third quarter, they essentially told their counterparts, "Take a breather. We've got it covered."

And they went out and got it all covered. Ed Reed came up with another way to get his hands on the ball, as if he hadn't figured out enough ways in his relatively brief Ravens career. He covered ground on his strip-recovery-and-return as nimbly and efficiently as anyone did while the Ravens had the ball.

Then it was B.J. Sams' turn, making another kick coverage team look helpless, executing a fake handoff on a punt runback and again swallowing up yardage - and doing a tightrope act along the sideline that nearly did Reed's one better.

And then, finally, at long last, there was Deion. It was just a matter of time, right? He got his hands on a few balls early, then got both hands on one, then held it aloft in triumph. While still returning it upfield, of course, but that's splitting hairs.

Don't ever let anyone tell you the Ravens don't know what to do with the ball. It just depends on which unit has it.

This all took place as the offense was running three plays in the first 13 minutes of the third quarter. The unit made it one of its better possessions of the game to that point simply by not turning it over. In turn, the defense and special teams kept imposing their will more and more.

In the end, those units managed to do the impossible: generate some genuine momentum on the other side of the ball. Jamal Lewis didn't start pounding it down the opposing team's throat in his usual manner - gaining 90 of his 116 yards - until he had a lead with which he could work.

For the rest of the month, the Ravens won't even have Jamal Lewis around to crush a defense's remaining spirit. That first half was the ugliest sign yet of what can happen if it's left to anyone besides Lewis to move the ball.

Yet in the end, it didn't matter. In the end, that 17-10 score looked as overwhelming as the 10-0 deficit had seemed. Now, less than a week after that gruesome Monday night loss, a 3-2 record going into the bye seems a little less disturbing. It's borderline encouraging, in fact. This is how they're going to have to win. Everyone in the NFL knows it. They win anyway.

The Ravens will have to keep getting away with it all the rest of the way, and trust that it's enough to make their Super Bowl talk legit.

They say they can live with it. So far, they're doing so.

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