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A running joke

The Baltimore Sun

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Ravens delivered one of the most memorable defensive performances in NFL history when they obliterated the New York Giants in the January 2001 Super Bowl.

Eight seasons later against the Giants, the Ravens' defense produced one of their most forgettable ones.

From Brandon Jacobs bulling through Ray Lewis to Ahmad Bradshaw faking him out, the Ravens' defense was a shadow of itself, getting run over by the Giants, 30-10, yesterday at windy Giants Stadium.

The showdown was a letdown as the top-ranked ground game (the Giants) had its way with the top-ranked run defense (Ravens), opening up lanes bigger than the ones on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Ravens (6-4) surrendered 207 rushing yards - the third-most in the team's 13-year history. It was the most yards given up by the Ravens since the Pittsburgh Steelers ran for 214 yards Oct. 5, 1997, when Lewis was in just his second season.

A defense that prides itself on shutting down running backs had to swallow some pride, albeit against the defending Super Bowl champions.

"Am I embarrassed?" linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs said. "Definitely."

No defensive players were listed on the post-game injury report, unless you're counting bruised egos.

In the first nine games, the Ravens had not allowed a running back to gain more than 73 yards. The Giants had two reach that mark, as Bradshaw (96 yards) and Jacobs (73 yards) rolled over the Ravens.

In the first nine games, the Ravens had given up one run of more than 20 yards. The Giants had three backs gash the Ravens, from Bradshaw (77-yard run) to Jacobs (36) to Derrick Ward (22).

Although coach John Harbaugh refused to acknowledge that the Ravens were physically outplayed - "We're not going to concede that," he said - his players did it for him.

"It was a thumping. It's the biggest thumping I've been a part of for a long time," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "Even the Indianapolis game didn't feel like this one."

When the Ravens were routed by the Colts, 31-3, five weeks ago, it was their secondary that got exposed.

Against the Giants (9-1), it was a run defense that had led the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (65.4) and per carry (2.9).

But it was apparent early that this wasn't the same Ravens defense that helped the team win four straight games.

The Giants' first run resulted in a 36-yard gain. Jacobs started to his right, where there was no hole, before bouncing to a wide-open left side.

"When they hit a big one, I'm sure it made us second-guess and gave them some confidence," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "Normally, we come out and keep stuffing it. We just couldn't get it going today."

New York's second run resulted in Jacobs driving Lewis back a few yards for a 5-yard gain, causing the defense to become shell-shocked as a unit.

"After the first couple of times, we were just like, 'How in the world?,' " Pryce said. "At that point, it's like what else can go bad? Playing the champs, you had better come with your A-plus-plus game, and we didn't do that."

The Giants' big plays in the running game became a giant problem for the Ravens.

Six plays after Jacobs' 36-yard run, he finished off the opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown.

On the Giants' next series (which started at the Ravens' 33-yard line after a blocked field goal), Jacobs ran for 15 yards before scoring another 1-yard touchdown.

On New York's third possession, Ward drove through the middle for 22 yards, which helped set up Eli Manning's 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darcy Johnson.

Allowing three big runs put the Ravens into a 20-0 hole in the second quarter.

"When you look at all the big runs they have, those plays we make 1,000 times out of 1,000 times," Lewis said. "The bottom line is when you give that many plays up and backs are bouncing off you, that's something we take pride in. That's something we just don't do. And today it happened."

The run defense dug in early in the second half, limiting New York to 4 rushing yards in the third quarter.

Then, on the Giants' first play of the fourth quarter, Bradshaw faked out Lewis after going through a big hole and broke a 77-yard run. He was caught by Fabian Washington at the Ravens' 2-yard line, which helped set up a field goal for a 30-10 New York lead.

From the first quarter to the last, the Ravens never could get a grip on the game because they failed to hold on to the Giants' running backs.

"The holes were gaping," Pryce said. "Any NFL back with that kind of room to run looks like Gale Sayers. It wasn't so much they were ultra-special. We were ultra-bad."

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