Defense denies Bucs a TD, but victory is unit's real goal


Throw out any notion of a moral victory or a consolation prize. The Ravens' defense isn't buying any of it.

Although it didn't allow a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive player to cross the goal line, the Ravens' defense wasn't kicking off a fiesta in the locker room after yesterday's humbling 25-0 loss in the home opener at Ravens Stadium.

"We still lost," said linebacker Peter Boulware, who registered the team's only sack in the first quarter. "We can try to break it down. We didn't give them a touchdown, but the point is we're out there to win. If we don't win, it doesn't really matter."

Added strong safety Anthony Mitchell: "We did all right. We kept them out of the end zone, but we've got to do better as a team."

The Ravens, who are 0-2 for only the second time in their seven-season history in Baltimore, have given up just 35 points in two contests. The last time they gave up fewer points in back-to-back games and still lost both was during their Super Bowl run in 2000, when they dropped a 14-6 game to the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 22 and a 9-6 decision to the Pittsburgh Steelers the following week.

Ravens coach Brian Billick described yesterday's setback as "a pretty thorough [butt]-whipping in every phase of the game. We'll take positives where we can. The defense not giving up a touchdown is a positive thing."

Tampa Bay (1-1) threatened once in each of the first three quarters, chewing up yardage and the clock to dip inside the Ravens' 20-yard line. But each time, the Ravens' defense forced the Buccaneers to settle for field goals by Martin Gramatica.

Last week, Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson went to his wide receivers and tight ends to attack the New Orleans Saints, connecting on 18 of 28 passes to those players.

Yesterday, Johnson had to settle for the underbelly of the Ravens' defense, throwing 15 of his 24 completions to running backs Michael Pittman (six receptions for 58 yards), Mike Alstott (five for 25), Aaron Stecker (three for 11) and Jameel Cook (one for 14).

Fourteen of Johnson's completions ranged between zero and 9 yards, which didn't bother linebacker Ray Lewis.

"That's the type of defense we play," Lewis said of giving up short yardage to prevent the big play. "Most of the time, we get after them. Most of the time, we like to have those short downs and get after the ball. So we're OK."

But like last week's 10-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens failed to produce turnovers. In the second quarter, linebacker Cornell Brown jarred the ball loose from Alstott at the Ravens' 12-yard line, but the ball skidded out of bounds.

Instead, Tampa Bay's defense was the more opportunistic unit, converting a Chris Redman fumble into a safety and returning a Redman interception 97 yards for a touchdown.

The proof of Tampa Bay's domination was in an overwhelming edge in time of possession.

The Buccaneers controlled the ball for 35:31 - 20:12 in a 13-point first half.

"Today we did a good job with the clock with long drives, and that really helped us," Johnson said. "In the first half, we didn't go three-and-out. That's what killed us last week."

For the Ravens, next week's open date will provide the chance to review game film.

"The most important thing is we have to stick together through this," defensive end Michael McCrary said. "We can't point fingers. We've got one goal, and that's to win."

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