The Ravens defense wasn't about to let a fourth-quarter letdown get in the way of a celebration.
The unit surrendered 10 points in the final period and nearly allowed the visiting New York Jets to score a potential game-tying touchdown, but linebacker Ray Lewis' interception in the end zone snuffed out the Jets' comeback and gave Ravens a 20-13 victory at M&T; Bank Stadium yesterday.
Afterward, members of the defense were looking forward, not backward.
"Nothing's ever easy for us," Lewis said. "In this league, I've learned that when you get someone down, you have to put them away. But the bottom line is that we won. No ifs, ands or buts -- we won."
Added cornerback Samari Rolle: "People get caught up in how you won a game and how you didn't look good and this and that. Cleveland scored 50 points today and gave up 40 [the actual score was 51-45], but I don't think they're too upset. Sometimes you just have to deal with it and take the positives with the positives."
The positives were plentiful in the first three quarters. Over that span, the defense held New York to just 107 yards of total offense. Running back Thomas Jones was averaging just 2.9 yards per carry (46 yards on 16 rushes), and second-year quarterback Kellen Clemens had completed just nine of 18 passes for 84 yards while getting sacked four times and tossing an interception.
But the tide turned in the final quarter as the Jets racked up 197 yards of offense and held the football for 10 minutes, 2 seconds.
Perhaps the biggest change occurred with Clemens, who seemed to find his rhythm in the period, connecting on 10 of 19 passes for 176 yards and a three-yard touchdown throw to tight end Chris Baker.
"We hit him, we hit him a bunch, and we hit him early," said linebacker Jarret Johnson, who delivered seven tackles and a quarterback hit. "A lot of times when we hit guys like that, it'll rattle them and mess them up on their game. But it didn't mess him up one bit."
As Clemens became more comfortable, he began finding his receivers. A 44-yard pass to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. A 23-yard pass to Cotchery on fourth down-and-7 from New York's 24-yard line. A 50-yard catch-and-run by Cotchery and a 24-yard pass to Laveranues Coles that gave the Jets first-and-goal from the seven.
It didn't help that New York got some help from the Ravens themselves.
Cotchery's 50-yard play might have only gone for 10 if free safety Ed Reed had pulled him down around the Jets' 30. Safety Gerome Sapp gave New York a fresh set of downs when he was flagged for holding Baker during third-and-16 from the Ravens' 36.
"We can't help teams beat us," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Down the stretch, we've got to play fundamental football, and that's not getting penalties on third downs, and we've got to tackle."
Two plays after the Jets got down to the seven, Clemens sailed a pass that bounced off of wide receiver Justin McCareins' hands, and Lewis, who was patrolling the back part of the end zone, dove for the football, cradling it against Reed.
"As a matter of fact, right before that play, Ray was like, 'Somebody needs to step up and make a play right now,'" Sapp said. "The great ones are usually the ones that step up and do it, and he definitely did it."