The Baltimore Sun

MIAMI - Presented with the chance to retrace their path to Super Bowl history, the Ravens made reservations yesterday for Nashville, Tenn., and the second round of the NFL playoffs.

They throttled quarterback Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins in a 27-9 victory to set up a date with the No. 1-seeded Tennessee Titans at LP Field at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

When the Ravens won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season, it was as a wild-card entry in the AFC playoffs. Their second-round opponent that winter was the top-seeded Titans in what was then Adelphia Coliseum.

They banished the Titans in a 24-10 upset and went on to win the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., site of this year's Super Bowl.

Is this deja vu?

"I think so," said Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. "We'll see. That's the beauty of next week. We get to play the game. And we're looking forward to it."

There was a sizable and vocal contingent of Ravens fans among the 70,240 fans at Dolphin Stadium for the team's first playoff win in seven years - also against the Dolphins in Miami. Coach John Harbaugh went out of his way to acknowledge them.

At game's end, Harbaugh grabbed Ryan, went behind the team's bench and waved to fans. Then Harbaugh went down a line of about 200 fans slapping high-fives.

Moments later, tight end Todd Heap did the same.

"It's a long trip down here," Harbaugh said later. "We know how hard it was to get down here, what the fans had to do. I'm sure some fans are getting in cars and driving all the way back to Maryland.

"We're so proud of the fact they were here today. They were loud, you could hear them, it made a difference."

The Ravens beat Miami so handily yesterday that by game's end many who remained were wearing purple.

With two minutes left, wide receiver Derrick Mason heaved some footballs into the crowd of Ravens fans.

Bill Gereny, 45, a businessman from Westminster, bought six tickets at $400 each on the Internet last week and flew first class ($1,100 airfare, he said). He's been a skybox owner for six years at M&T; Bank Stadium.

"I'm already looking for my seats to Tennessee," Gereny said before the game, so confident was he of a Ravens win.

"We already played [the Dolphins] once, and we dominated the game. I realized they got better, but so did the Ravens. Our offense has turned it around. It's a good offense to take us through the postseason."

The Ravens came up with five turnovers against the Dolphins, a team that had given up only 13 during the regular season, tying the New York Giants for the fewest in a single season in NFL history.

Ravens safety Ed Reed had two interceptions - giving him 11 this season - and returned one for a touchdown.

"It's special because we've been building a team for a long time around here," said Reed, a seven-year veteran. "Since I've been here, this is my first playoff win and [for] a lot of guys in that locker room."

Tennessee, with an NFL-best record of 13-3 this season, was established yesterday as a 3-point favorite by oddsmakers over the wild-card Ravens in Saturday's game.

But the Ravens do not expect to stop now. If they beat Tennessee next week and the Pittsburgh Steelers or San Diego Chargers in the AFC championship game, they will retrace their steps to Tampa.

And that would be just fine with Larry Goldstein and Diane Pappas, who live in Owings Mills and have Ravens season tickets. They own a condominium in Fort Myers, a two-hour drive from Miami, and were on hand for yesterday's game.

"It fit right into our vacation plans," Pappas said. "We will be down here for Super Bowl weekend, too. So, if the Ravens win, we'll drive to Tampa, too."

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