After statement game, Ravens shoot down repeat shutout talk

September 17, 2006|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

At today's frenzied home opener, will the sellout crowd of 70,000 simply be greeting a revitalized Ravens team or the arrival of another elite defense?

The first step toward being mentioned among the all-time greats awaits the Ravens when they tackle the downtrodden Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium.

If the Ravens can blank the Raiders, they would become the first NFL defense to record back-to-back shutouts since the 2000 Ravens, the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.

But before anyone could say "second shutout," the Ravens knocked down haughty predictions as if they were another Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver.

"That's like a boxer watching somebody getting knocked out in the first round, and then they come in and take their opponent lightly and they get knocked out," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We're not going to do that. We know the capability of the Oakland Raiders."

Calling for a shutout really wouldn't be a stretch because the Ravens and the Raiders were just on the opposite sides of shutouts in the season opener.

Plus, consider this: The Raiders are traveling cross country on short rest and still feeling the sting of a 27-0 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Oakland managed to drive past the Chargers' 48-yard line just once and now faces a Ravens defense that allowed Tampa Bay to cross its 46 twice.

The Raiders surrendered nine sacks, one more than the number of completions thrown by starting quarterback Aaron Brooks and backup Andrew Walter. The Ravens didn't give up a first down on seven drives and ended three others with interceptions.

Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister, who is one of two remaining starters from that historic 2000 Ravens defense (along with Lewis), said this defense shouldn't even be contemplating shutouts.

"It's hard to get one," said McAlister, who is expected to shadow receiver Randy Moss. "To come out and say you're going to shut out anybody else after that is ridiculous."

McAlister is right when flipping through the NFL record books.

No team registered multiple shutouts in 2004 and 2005. Since the Ravens collected four in 2000, only six defenses have recorded more than one shutout in a season.

The Ravens' defenders said they shouldn't expect to blank the Raiders because they have talented offensive weapons such as Moss, Brooks and running back LaMont Jordan. But this is essentially the same offense that has averaged 10.3 points during a current seven-game losing streak.

Oakland realizes it's going to take a major effort to dent the Ravens' defense.

"I think the word that stands out for me when I think about the Ravens is physical," Jordan said. "They are going to come out and they are going to hit you for 60 minutes. I like to call them sharks ... they can smell blood from a mile away. If the Ravens sense any type of softness, those guys are going to take advantage of you and they are going to beat you up."

The Ravens stamped themselves as one of the most physical defenses in the NFL last week, when they roughed up the Buccaneers with several brutal hits in a 27-0 win.

This game will test whether the Ravens have the mind to match the muscles. A 12 1/2 -point favorite - the second-biggest favorite in any game this week - the Ravens have to avoid a mental letdown against Oakland.

Feeling overly confident hasn't been a problem recently for the Ravens. Since 2003, the Ravens are 5-1 in games that have followed a victory of 20 or more points.

"I've been around too long and I have too many Super Bowls and Pro Bowls, to fall for `Hey, you're all doing great,' " defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "This is only Week 1. We're not playing against a college team [today]."

Strangely enough, the last major meltdown by the Ravens came against the Raiders.

During their late playoff run in 2003, the Ravens had won three straight games before heading to Oakland to play a Raiders team that was proclaimed the "dumbest team in America" by its then-coach, Bill Callahan. The Ravens then turned the ball over three times in a 20-12 loss.

With veteran additions such as Pryce and quarterback Steve McNair, the Ravens can prove today whether they have enough maturity to handle success.

"Last week doesn't mean anything if we go out and lose," McNair said. "We have to stay focused. We forgot about the one last week. We have to prepare like this is the opener again. I don't think the mental letdown will happen."


Since 2003, the Ravens are 5-1 in games after a win of 20 points or more:

Date Opp. Result

9-21-03 @S.Diego W, 24-10

11-2-03 Jack. W, 24-17

12-7-03 Cinc. W, 31-13

12-28-03 Pitt. W, 13-10

11-28-04 @New Eng. L, 24-3

12-25-05 Minn. W, 30-23

>>>Raiders@Ravens Today, 1 p.m., Ch. 13, 97.9 FM Line: Ravens by 12 1/2

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