By Jamison Hensley
September 18, 2006
The Ravens' shutout streak ended late in the second quarter.
Their early-season defensive dominance did not.
With little help from their offense and little resistance from the Oakland Raiders, the Ravens left the Silver and Black looking black and blue in a 28-6 rout yesterday before 70,744 at M&T Bank Stadium, the largest crowd in this city's pro football history.
The Ravens rattled the Raiders into six turnovers, which ties a team record. They roughed up Oakland backup quarterback Andrew Walter for six sacks. And they refused to allow a touchdown for a second straight game, never permitting the winless Raiders to move past the Ravens' 16-yard line.
By the time the annihilation was complete, the Ravens improved their record to 2-0 for the first time since 2000, the season when they started their tradition for defensive excellence.
"That's been our winning style for the longest time," said linebacker Adalius Thomas, who led the defensive charge with seven tackles, two sacks, an interception and a safety. "It's going out there and setting the tone on defense. We accept that responsibility."
The Ravens didn't give up a first down on 11 of 15 drives, holding Oakland to 162 yards.
More impressively, the Ravens' defense was on the attack more than their offense, which repeatedly settled for field goals in the red zone.
Thomas registered the Ravens' first safety in six seasons midway through the third quarter, sacking Walter in the end zone to put the Ravens ahead 18-3. On the next series, nose tackle Kelly Gregg picked up a fumble and rumbled 59 yards to set up another field goal and seal the second straight lopsided victory of the season.
With last week's 27-0 win at Tampa Bay, the Ravens haven't given up a touchdown in eight quarters, a span of 27 drives. Oakland's only scores came on field goals of 34 and 51 yards.
"They haven't crossed the goal line yet," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's something for our defense to hold onto, and something that will continue to motivate us."
The Ravens' firm grip on Oakland's hapless offense started when the Raiders couldn't get their hands on the snap.
Oakland's first two series ended with starting quarterback Aaron Brooks fumbling the snap in his own territory. The Ravens converted both turnovers into field goals to stake themselves to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, and Brooks left with a sprained right rotator cuff suffered while diving for a fumble.
The Raiders finished with four fumbled snaps from center, an inexplicable number for an NFL team. The Ravens, however, don't believe these turnovers were unforced errors.
"I think [Brooks] was conscious that he got sacked seven times last week, and I'm sure he watched our film on how we come," said defensive end Terrell Suggs, who had two sacks and one forced fumble. "I think he was pretty much worrying about where we were coming from [rather] than handling first things first, which was the snap."
The Ravens' offense has its own problems to rectify.
The defense and special teams set the offense up in Oakland territory on six of its first 12 possessions. On those drives, the Ravens came away with four field goals, an interception and a punt.
"It's great that you have a win, but things like that are going to catch up to you," receiver Derrick Mason said. "Our defense played tremendously. But we as an offense, we have to get that old mentality of the defense is going to save us out of our heads if we are going to be considered a top-rate offense in the league.
"We have to carry our weight as an offense. We didn't do it this game. We honestly haven't done it the past two games. That's something we have to do as an offense. Hopefully, we can go down to Cleveland next week and get this offense going. If not, hopefully [our defense] can score some points, they can be our offense."
The frustration on offense peaked after its second straight three-and-out to open the second half.
Jonathan Ogden was visibly upset as he walked to the sideline, where he engaged in an emotional talk with Billick. The mammoth left tackle didn't seem satisfied when he walked away.
Ogden, who is expected to return after leaving with a hyperextended right knee, wouldn't comment on the specifics of his conversation with Billick, saying only "We've got to all be on the same page."
Billick did little to shed light on the Ravens' offensive troubles in his post-game news conference.
When asked about the passing attack and then quarterback Steve McNair, Billick responded both times with "We're 2-0 and I'll take care of those assessments [today]."
The offense likely will struggle with its cohesiveness as long as McNair remains erratic.
He was 4-for-5 for 50 yards on the Ravens' hurry-up drive in the final minute of the first half, which ended with a 1-yard lob to tight end Todd Heap in the end zone. Besides that series - the Ravens' only legitimate one of the game - he was 12-for-28 for 93 yards.
"I think we took a step back from last week," McNair said. "I think we miscued on some plays we shouldn't have. The defense played excellent and put us in a position to score points. We were in the red zone a lot and we sputtered. We can't do that."
With a defiant defense and a downtrodden offense, the Ravens are looking to go 3-0 for the first time in their team history when they play at the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
It seems like there will be little margin for error if they want to keep pace with their tough AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0).
"Anytime you get out of the gate like this, it's always perfect," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "You don't want to play from behind and you don't want to play catch-up to nobody. You want to control your own destiny. Right now, we have control."
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