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Ravens Get Back to Basics

Power Running, Strong Defense Are Evident in Rout of Steelers: Ravens 30, Steelers 13

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 20, 2004; Page D11

BALTIMORE, Sept. 19 -- On the first play of the Baltimore Ravens' 30-13 victory over the hated Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Jamal Lewis ran the ball for four yards. On the second play of the game, Lewis ran for nine yards. On the third play, Lewis ran for 11 yards.

And so it went on the opening series. Baltimore went 90 yards on 11 plays (10 were on the ground) and capped off the drive with -- what else -- a three-yard run by Lewis. But more than that, the Ravens (1-1) re-asserted their identity as a hard-nosed running team, rebounded from a deeply disappointing season-opening loss to Cleveland, and avoided starting the season with two AFC North Division losses.


Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister was practically flying on his way to the end zone, scoring on a 51-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter. (Bill Collins -- Reuters)

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"That was huge," left tackle Jonathan Ogden said of the opening drive. "We needed to establish ourselves, get back to what we do, run the ball and play-action. We just needed to get back to Raven ball, really."

That held true for the defense, as well. The Ravens, who didn't create a turnover in the 20-3 loss to the Browns, came up with one fumble (forced by cornerback Gary Baxter and recovered by linebacker Terrell Suggs) and two interceptions (from linebacker Adalius Thomas and cornerback Chris McAlister).

Suggs's 24-yard fumble return set up a one-yard touchdown run by Lewis early in the third quarter that gave Baltimore a 20-0 lead. McAlister returned his interception 51 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

"The biggest difference was we knew we had to come out and pressure," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Last week, we came out and were stopping [the Browns], but we just weren't playing our style of defense, and that's aggressive. Today it was aggressive."

The Ravens welcomed the return of Ogden, who missed last week's game with a sprained knee. Baltimore ran the ball 10 times for 89 yards on that first drive -- which surpassed last week's entire rushing output (88 yards on 26 carries) -- and finished with 172 yards on 41 carries. Lewis (62 yards on 24 carries) was held to fewer than 100 yards for the second straight game -- something that hadn't happened since December 2002 -- but backup Chester Taylor had a career-high 76 yards on nine carries.

Quarterback Kyle Boller completed 10 of 18 passes for 98 yards but lost his favorite target late in the second quarter when Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap sprained his right ankle.

Heap was injured when Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior fell on his right leg. Heap lined up for the next play -- the Ravens were at the Steelers 10 with no timeouts remaining -- and as Boller spiked the ball to stop the clock, Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter leveled Heap.

After the hit, Heap remained on the ground and later was helped off the field by two trainers. X-rays were negative, and Billick didn't say much afterward other than, "we'll just have to see what the trainers say."

Porter defended his actions, saying, "it looked like he was hobbling, but at the same time, I don't know if he was fake hobbling. . . . I didn't hit him, I pushed him. He rolled over and make like I had hit him. I just pushed him. It's not like I took a cheap shot at him and ran in there and hit him. I pushed him with my hands. This is football."

No penalty was called on the player, but the Ravens were furious.

"I've got to be careful, men, because I can't afford the $15,000 [fine]," Coach Brian Billick said, when asked about Porter's hit. "We are awful concerned about receivers turning their shoulders, going forward on the line of scrimmage, and talk endlessly about pass interference down the field, but something like that evidently is legal. How about that."

McAlister was less diplomatic: "There's no reason for anyone to take a cheap shot like that."

The Ravens were penalized 10 times for 123 yards. An illegal-motion penalty on wide receiver Kevin Johnson nullified Randy Hymes's 39-yard touchdown reception, which came off of a flea-flicker late in the first quarter. Even more distressing to the Ravens was that more than half of the penalties (six for 88 yards) were for unsportsmanlike conduct, face masks, or unnecessary roughness.

"We have a big challenge to find some personal discipline," Billick said. "That's going to be a real focus for us. We've done some dumb things. We've got to find some personal discipline."

Cornerback Deion Sanders was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for removing his helmet as he high-stepped across the field after a 23-yard punt return in the second quarter. He said later that he took off his helmet only because the skull cap he wears underneath slipped over his eyes.

Sanders left the game shortly before halftime with a strained left hamstring and did not return. He said that he was "day-to-day."

Ravens Notes: Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Maddox left with a right elbow injury in the third quarter, paving the way for Ben Roethlisberger, the 11th overall pick of the draft. Roethlisberger was 12 for 20 for 176 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. . . . Defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (hamstring), fullback Harold Morrow (hamstring) and Thomas (knee) also were injured. Thomas was the only player who returned to the game.


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