"It's what's expected," inside linebacker Ray Lewis said after the Ravens' thorough 37-7 shellacking of the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. "We've been battling for a long time, and we have a veteran defense, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's kind of our thing. You go into last week's game, and you don't get off the field on third downs. You go into this game and you do get off the field on third downs. You don't turn the ball over on offense, which is always the best security for your defense. Overall as a team, I think we came out and played pretty well today."
That may be an understatement. The defense smothered St. Louis, especially in a near-perfect first half that saw the Ravens enjoy a 27-0 advantage at halftime.
The Rams could manage just 81 of 244 yards of total offense and six of 17 first downs in the first two quarters. The unit went three-and-out four out of seven possessions over that same span.
"Our defense got after it and stopped the run, which is what you have to do with these guys," coach John Harbaugh said. "They also kept [St. Louis quarterback Sam] Bradford on the run. So I am very proud of our guys."
It was a much-needed reversal from last Sunday's 26-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans when the defense surrendered 432 yards and 21 first downs and allowed the Titans to convert two third downs during their victory-clinching drive.
"I'm very proud of our unit," defensive end Cory Redding said. "We had a very disappointing week last week. The leaders stepped up and said what they had to say, and that was the end of it. We got back to work on Monday and prepared very hard for this game."
The Ravens were spurred by their usual leaders. Lewis led all players with 10 tackles, and his sack of Bradford in the fourth quarter led to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata scooping up the fumble and returning it 28 yards for the team's final touchdown of the contest.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs raised his team-leading sack total to four, and he finished with two tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits.
But the defense got contributions from others, too. Redding recorded a sack, three quarterback hits and two tackles-for-losses, inside linebacker Jameel McClain and rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee each posted a sack, and cornerback Lardarius Webb killed a Rams drive at the Ravens' 3-yard line with an interception.
Putting a lock on St. Louis' passing attack was particularly significant after Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck torched the secondary for 358 yards and one touchdown on 30-of-42 passing.
Ngata said the defensive players were intent on not repeating those results against Bradford.
"I think you saw that we wanted to make sure that we would pressure the quarterback and stop the passing game," Ngata said. "We were able to do that. We were able to get to Sam Bradford and get him off his mark, and we were able to make plays. I think we got to him enough that he was wondering where we were coming from."
Bradford, who threw for just 166 yards on 16-of-32 completions, acknowledged that the Ravens defense bullied the Rams offense.
"We just weren't very effective throwing the ball," Bradford said. "I think it comes from a lot of things. I've got to do a better job of making reads, getting the ball out quicker. And then when we do have one-on-one matchups, we have to win. We have to take advantage of that when people make plays like that."
The only miscue for the Ravens was being unable to cement the defense's first shutout since Nov. 16, 2009, when they blanked the Cleveland Browns, 16-0. That mission ended when Bradford floated a pass over cornerback Cary Williams to wide receiver Brandon Gibson in the back of the end zone in the third quarter.
"We wanted it," Suggs acknowledged. "But this is the NFL. We tried our best and we work hard every week to play perfect, and I think what happened was we made our DBs cover too long on that one play and one guy snuck past us, and they scored one."