Setting down the baggage to pick up a victory

The Baltimore Sun

MIAMI - The Ravens insist that revenge wasn't foremost on their minds yesterday when they returned to the site where last season hit rock bottom.

"We've had enough drama this year leading into this," Terrell Suggs pointed out.

Still, that disaster in December at Dolphin Stadium - the first and only win by miserable Miami in 2007, and No. 8 in the Ravens' own nine-game skid - is the perfect way to measure where the current version of the team is. The Ravens might not be great, maybe not even good. But they're so much better than last year.

More important, they're so different.

It was obvious from the start of their 27-13 win that what happened here last season was not going to happen again. No letting the Dolphins hang around. No making devastating, momentum-changing mistakes. No letting a string of losses snowball into a lost season.

The Ravens did have baggage, as teams will when they've lost three straight, their most recent by four touchdowns. They even managed to add to it with whatever is, or is not, going on with Chris McAlister and his playing time. But by disposing of the Dolphins so methodically, they unloaded a bunch.

Willis McGahee was one of the few Ravens who admitted thinking about the 22-16 overtime shaming, noting that as a Miami native, "I heard about it all last year." He would have heard about this one, too, had his late-game fumble hurt the Ravens. They didn't let it, and later, he scored anyway. Just another difference.

"I think we played well on our side of the ball," said Joe Flacco, after his first game without a turnover since opening day against the Cincinnati Bengals, despite two very close calls. "And when we didn't, [the defense] picked us up on the other side of the ball. They had our backs again."

Flacco, by the way, said he never heard any teammates talking about vengeance. Again, there was too much else going on. There were the three straight losses, including the one to the Indianapolis Colts - so thorough that John Harbaugh said he had to keep reminding people that it counted only once, not three times.

There still was good reason, Suggs said, for him to have called this game "make or break" - the loss in Buffalo almost a year ago to the day sent the season spiraling out of control.

"When you lose three or four games in a row - players are human. They stop believing," said Suggs, one of the many heroes, thanks to his interception return for a touchdown. "Now we're believing again."

Quite the opposite of last year's defensive meltdown here on the touchdown in overtime. Not only was the defense not victimized again, but it also turned the Dolphins' "Wildcat" offense from sensation to gimmick.

And, of course, the Ravens' offense was not only a salute to the game-calling and preparation by Cam Cameron, but it was also a thumb in the eye to everybody sucked in by the weak excuse for an insult by Harbaugh in defending Cameron's brief Dolphins coaching career last week.

Cameron greeted former players warmly before and after the game, and he was delayed boarding the team bus for several minutes while surrounded by South Florida media members, presumably the ones who blew the original comment out of proportion.

"You do get emotional," he repeated to them, "but I have to say that the most important thing is coaching this team and getting a win."

Almost to a man, the Ravens say they didn't still have that bitter taste from last year. It was washed away anyway.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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