The Ravens didn't just shut out the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday. The defense shut out the memories from a week ago.
After struggling last Sunday at Miami in front of a national television audience, the Ravens defense took out its anger on the Bengals in a 37-0 victory at PSINet Stadium and raised its bar of excellence in the process.
It will be a day remembered for crushing Cincinnati quarterback Akili Smith along with the record books as the Ravens established team marks for fewest net yards allowed (94), fewest rushing yards (4), fewest passing yards (90) and fewest first downs (7).
"We didn't play to the best of our ability last week and we came out and played [ticked] off," defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "And we made things happen today."
The Ravens forced turnovers on three of the Bengals' first five offensive possessions. The front seven was relentless in pushing around Cincinnati, not giving up a rushing or passing first down until the two-minute warning of the first half while holding a 24-0 lead.
The Ravens' pass rush made its presence known with three sacks on Cincinnati's first five dropbacks and finished with four. They zipped past the Bengals' offensive line with speed rushes and fooled Cincinnati with line stunts.
The run defense registered six tackles behind the line of scrimmage, equaling the number of carries given up for positive yardage. The remaining four rush attempts were for no gain. Adams and fellow defensive tackle Tony Siragusa had their way up front and the Bengals didn't have the speed to beat the Ravens to the outside.
"We're capable of doing that stuff to any opponent with the talent we have on this team," Siragusa said. "We set a standard with this game. As coaches and players, we have to live up to our standard. We can't any letdowns like we had last week."
The Ravens recorded their second shutout of the season and have posted all three shutouts in team history in their past six games. In their last 11 quarters, the Ravens have surrendered only three touchdowns.
"One of the hardest things to do is win an NFL game, let alone shut out a team," defensive end Rob Burnett said. "It's very gratifying to be able to throw a goose egg, especially after what happened last week. After last weekend, I was sick until Thursday. I really was. This is what we needed."
The Bengals proved to be the perfect remedy. They have just one touchdown in 36 offensive series spanning three games this season.
Still, the Ravens created a lot of their fortune when Burnett put Smith on the sideline with a vicious hit early in the second quarter. They then took advantage of less-mobile backup quarterback Scott Mitchell and the inexperience of rookie receivers Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans.
Midway through the second quarter, veteran safety Rod Woodson read Warrick's in-route while playing zone for his first interception of the season. Just six minutes later, cornerback Duane Starks stayed with Warrick on a deep pattern down the left sideline and intercepted an underthrown Mitchell pass at the 2-yard line.
It was a stifling performance in which the Ravens limited Cincinnati to 2-for-11 on third-down conversions and didn't allow a play of more than 14 yards. The Bengals only made it past midfield three times and never past the Ravens' 34.
"We got our butts kicked, period," Mitchell said of playing his former teammates. "A week ago, they had their tail between their legs."
But yesterday, the Ravens' defense made its stand and stomped out the memories from last week.
"When you're on national TV and you come out and have a bad showing like that, that's tough," Siragusa said. "But our defense bounced back and showed what we had."
The Ravens defense rewrote their record book yesterday, establishing team marks for fewest yards rushing, yards passing, total yards and first downs. The old and new records:
Opponent Date Yds.
Cincinnati Sept. 24, 2000 4
New Orleans Dec. 19, 1999 11
Cincinnati Sept. 24, 2000 90
New England Jan. 2, 2000 108
Cincinnati Sept. 24, 2000 94
San Diego Nov. 15, 1998 161
Opponent Date No.
Cincinnati Sept. 24, 2000 7
San Diego Nov. 15, 1998 8