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.
In an effort that elicited feelings of redemption and renewed confidence, the Ravens' defense tormented Manning into making half of his team's six turnovers, which tied a Ravens record and paved the way for 20 points yesterday.
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-seeded 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 was 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 his career-best touchdown game with four 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.
The Giants (5-8) offered little resistance the rest of the way in their sixth straight loss.
"A little bit of adversity, but I think we did a good job of handling it," Boller said of the fumble.
There was no escaping adversity for Manning, who was making his fourth NFL start.
He led the Giants past midfield just once and completed nearly as many passes to the Ravens (two) as his own teammates (four). While the Ravens only sacked him twice, his frantic showing underscored how the Ravens' unpredictable blitzes wore on him.
Replacing Manning late, Kurt Warner produced 145 yards and New York's only offensive touchdown on the last two meaningless drives.
"I don't know if I can pin it on one thing. I didn't play well, I missed throws, I made bad decisions," Manning said. "You've got to give some credit to the Ravens' defense."
In a reversal of fortune for the young quarterbacks, Boller celebrated perhaps his most efficient NFL game.
Spreading the ball out to six receivers, he was 18-for-34 passing for 219 yards and a career-high 112.3 rating. And whenever the usually red zone-challenged Ravens neared the goal line, he was the one who punched them into the end zone.
Three of his four touchdown throws were essentially jump balls, as the 6-foot-6 Moore and the 6-5 tight end Todd Heap reached over defenders.
"My playmakers made plays," Boller said. "It's great to have the momentum going but this is just a starting point."
The journey now winds through Indianapolis (10-3), which has won six straight games. The Ravens' fourth playoff berth in five years could hang in the balance.
So, after dismantling the Giants - their largest margin of victory this season - are the Ravens ready to challenge the offensive-minded Colts?
"That's what we're going to have to prove," Heap said. "That's what we're going out to do. Time will tell that."