The Ravens' defense provided the message early - and often.
The Detroit Lions' first three possessions ended after they failed to convert two third-and-1 and one third-and-2 situations in the first quarter, and those plays set the tone for the defense, which helped power the Ravens to a 48-3 thumping of the Lions on Sunday at M&T; Bank Stadium.
The defense limited Detroit to 229 yards of offense and 13 first downs - both of which were the second-worst totals of the season - and wunderkind Calvin Johnson caught just four passes for 37 yards.
"From the beginning to the end of the game, we kind of dictated what we wanted to give them," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said.
The key was turning back the Lions on those three third-and-short situations. Two series ended with punts, while another was capped by a 45-yard field-goal attempt that Jason Hanson pushed wide right.
"We just want to get off the field," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "Anytime you get off the field - whether it's third-and-1 or third-and-100 - that sets the tone."
The Ravens initially had problems containing running back Kevin Smith, who rushed for 79 yards on 19 carries. But several defensive players said they adjusted to Smith's cutback runs.
Suggs reinjured the knee early in the game, but after being fitted for a brace and getting retaped, he returned.
"They hit the knee the second play of the game, and it was hurting ever since," he said. "But I had to shake it off. I taped it up some more and got back in there and was ready to go."
Although Suggs finished with just four tackles and no sacks, his presence seemed to revitalize his defensive teammates.
"Anytime you get a veteran player back, especially like Sizzle, it helps not only physically, but mentally and emotionally," strong safety Dawan Landry said. "He's an emotional leader on defense. So it was big for us."
Costly penalty on Pryce
Pryce was flagged for a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper in the first quarter that negated an interception by Landry.
"I'm leaning forward to tackle him, and he throws the ball at the last minute, but he throws it off his back foot and he falls away, and that's how we hit head-to-head," Pryce said. "It was a helmet, and I was looking at the ref even as I was hitting him because I didn't him that hard."
Pryce said after talking to referee Don Carey, he understood his reasoning - sort of. "He said it was helmet to helmet," Pryce said. "It is what it is, but I didn't pick him up and drive him into the ground or anything like that."
Worth the price
Derrick Mason paid a little bit for his sixth touchdown of the season.
The wide receiver caught a 12-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco on a slant route at midfield and, although he got sandwiched between cornerback Phillip Buchanon and strong safety Marvin White, Mason stayed on his feet and raced the remaining 50 yards into the end zone. Mason got the wind knocked out of him, but returned to the game without missing a play.
"I took a good shot in the chest, and it kind of caught up with me once I got into the end zone," Mason said. "And now that my body is settling down, I'm kind of feeling it now. I'll deal with it throughout the week and by Sunday, it will be gone."
With the team choosing to deactivate starting left tackle Jared Gaither because of a foot injury, rookie Michael Oher shifted from his usual right tackle position and Oniel Cousins got his first career start at right tackle.
Cousins, a third-round pick in the 2008 draft, had played in just five contests last season and had been deactivated through the first 12 games of this season. But rather than use a lineup that included Marshal Yanda at right tackle and Chris Chester at right guard when Gaither missed games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings in October with a neck injury, the offense kept Yanda at right guard and inserted Cousins at right tackle.
"We all kind of prepare like we're starters here," Cousins said. "I kind of knew all week and I was preparing myself and getting myself and my game ready. ... I thought I did some good things. There's some things that you can always work on, and we're just going to try to get better."
Starters on ice
As expected, the Ravens deactivated free safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Mark Clayton for the game.
Reed had not practiced last week after suffering what coach John Harbaugh called a strain in his hip - an ailment that forced him to miss the team's 27-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers last Monday night. Tom Zbikowski got his second consecutive start in place of the five-time Pro Bowl selection.
Clayton, who sat out last week's practices after tweaking his right hamstring against the Packers, said the decision to sit was a precautionary measure.
"It didn't feel strong enough," said Clayton, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Kelley Washington. "So we figured we would just give it a little bit of rest. Hopefully, that paid off."
The team also deactivated tight end L.J. Smith (ankle), offensive lineman David Hale (concussion) and defensive tackles Brandon McKinney and Kelly Talavou. John Beck was the third (emergency) quarterback.
The only injuries of note involved running back Ray Rice (chest) and Washington (ankle). Both will be re-evaluated today, but the injuries are not considered serious. ... During the telecast on Fox, the broadcast team announced that network analyst Brian Billick would work the Ravens' home contest against the Chicago Bears next Sunday. It will be the first time this season that the former Ravens head coach will call a Ravens game. ... The Lions played without starting defensive end Dewayne White, who had been listed as probable although he had been limited in practice last week. Rookie Matthew Stafford, who had started 10 games before reinjuring his separated left, nonthrowing shouolder Dec. 6, was the third (emergency) quarterback. Detroit also deactivated linebacker Vinny Ciuciu, tight end Casey FitzSimmons (concussion), defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, center Melvin Fowler, offensive tackle Corey Hilliard and safety Jahi Word-Daniels. ... Lions rookie tight end Dan Gronkowski's 4-yard catch in the third quarter was the first of the former Maryland player's career. ... Linebacker Ray Lewis, defensive tackle Justin Bannan, punter Sam Koch and Yanda represented the Ravens for the pre-game coin toss.