A week before their prime-time showdown with Peyton Manning, the Ravens unmercifully shook his family tree.
Unleashing a punishing pass rush on his younger brother, the Ravens rocked rookie quarterback Eli Manning to rout the New York Giants, 37-14, yesterday before 69,856 at M&T Bank Stadium.
If there was any doubt whether their proud defense would rebound from last week's fourth-quarter collapse, it answered back an authoritative performance that permitted 55 yards in the first three quarters.
If there is any question whether the Ravens still rank among the NFL's elite defenses, they'll deliver their rebuttal Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Colts.
"You know Peyton is going to a little upset after the way we treated his little brother today," defensive end Tony Weaver said.
The tone in the Ravens' locker room was surprisingly even keel, considering they ended a two-game losing streak to remain in the thick of the playoff hunt.
The Ravens improved to 8-5 for the third time in team history and stayed tied with Denver for the sixth and final AFC wild-card spot. While Pittsburgh's 17-6 win over the New York Jets clinched the AFC North title for the Steelers, it moved the Ravens to within one game of the fifth-place Jets.
"It was a little subdued locker room after a win," coach Brian Billick said. "But there is reason for it. There is more out there for us. They know what that is."
What they left behind was a domination so complete, the game was never in doubt once the Ravens went into halftime with a 27-7 lead.
It was so thorough quarterback Kyle Boller doubled to four his career high for touchdowns in a game before the end of the third quarter and running back Jamal Lewis only had to play one half on his still-tender right ankle.
It was so devastating that Giants coach Tom Coughlin had to rescue his shell-shocked No. 1 pick with six minutes left in the game, pulling Manning out with a zero quarterback rating (4-for-18 for 27 yards, two interceptions and a fumble).
"It was rough for him today," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "We were moving around and he didn't know who was coming and who was covering. I think we got into his head."
The Ravens were in the head of the entire Giants team six minutes into the game, when they converted two turnovers into a 10-0 lead.
A fumble on the opening kickoff quickly turned into a 12-yard touchdown pass from Boller to rookie Clarence Moore. A fumble by Tiki Barber led to a 46-yard Matt Stover field goal.
"Whenever you lose back-to-back games, it was important for us to start off fast," Thomas said. "That's what we did from the opening kickoff."
The only moment for concern came late in the second quarter, when Boller was hit from the blind side and coughed up the ball. His seventh fumble lost was picked up by defensive end Osi Umenyiora and run back 50 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Ravens' margin to 17-7.
On the ensuing drive, Boller completed a 35-yard throw to Kevin Johnson -- which bounced off the hands of a Giants cornerback -- and then hit Chester Taylor for an 11-yard pass to move into scoring range. He finished off the drive with an 8-yard pass to Moore in the back of the end zone with 21 seconds remaining in the first half.
Ravens safety Ed Reed picked off Manning on the next play and his team-record eighth interception of the season allowed Stover to hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, staking the Ravens to a commanding 27-7 advantage.
Ravens 37, Giants 14