Game 6: Ravens pick off victory

From Deion Sanders' sidestepping shimmy in the end zone to Terrell Suggs' raucous sack dances, the Ravens made it known yesterday that the defense has got its groove back.

The Ravens' 20-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills before 69,809 at M&T Bank Stadium became a chorus line of timely interceptions, defiant red-zone stands and over-the-top strutting.

No one could match the repertoire of "Prime Time" as Sanders dusted off some old moves to score a touchdown on a long interception return and take one away with a pick in the end zone.

His high-stepping, 48-yard runback for a score - the first of four picks by the Ravens - broke a 3-3 tie in the first quarter and provided all the points that this increasingly stingy defense would need.

Locking down three times inside its 7-yard line, the defense turned the punchless Bills (1-5) away from the end zone each time and extended its string of not allowing a touchdown to six quarters.

"We have finally got our swagger back," said Suggs, who registered two sacks, including forcing a fumble on a vicious hit of quarterback Drew Bledsoe. "We didn't like the feeling we had a couple of weeks ago against Kansas City. We kind of all took it upon ourselves never to feel like that again. We're definitely clicking."

The Ravens (4-2) moved within a game of the idle Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North race because their defense has become more offensive-minded than their offense. The defense nearly produced as many yards on interception returns (155) than the offense did on 12 mostly forgettable drives (160).

The Ravens' futility bottomed out in the second half, when the offense managed just 17 yards on 21 plays (including no yards passing).

To make matters worse, All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden pulled his hamstring without being hit on a sweep play with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game. He was helped off the field by trainers and could miss extensive time.

"I was running and it felt like someone kicked me in the back of my leg," Ogden said. "Hopefully, it will be OK soon. I'm feeling sore right now. I have no idea of a timetable right now."

Ogden, who will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test today, could become the third Pro Bowl player sidelined on offense, joining injured tight end Todd Heap and suspended running back Jamal Lewis.

"Replacing Jonathan Ogden is going to be hard," said receiver Travis Taylor, who rejoined the Ravens yesterday after missing four games with a groin injury. "But at the same time, that's what we've been doing all year."

With the Ravens' offense limping, their defense doled out the pain.

With the score tied at 3 in the first quarter, Ravens dime back Chad Williams deflected a cross-field screen pass, which landed in the waiting hands of Sanders. The Ravens' high-profile nickel back pranced down the sideline and into the end zone, where he already had calculated how to celebrate his 23rd career touchdown in style.

"At breakfast this morning, I told the guys, 'When I get in the end zone, stand back and let me dance. Then you can congratulate me,' " Sanders said.

Not only did Sanders stake the Ravens to their first lead, he also helped preserve it.

With the Ravens ahead 17-6, Sanders jumped in front of receiver Lee Evans in the end zone with 12:26 remaining in the game. It was Sanders' third interception since ending his three-year retirement at the age of 37.

"For those that didn't think that was a good move," Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "then maybe they can re-think that."

Maybe offenses should re-think how to attack the Ravens in the red zone.

The Bills ran nine plays inside the Ravens' 10-yard line and couldn't crack past the 4-yard line.

Buffalo's first try came when Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller got hit from the blind side and fumbled on the second play from scrimmage at his 22. But Adalius Thomas sacked Bledsoe on third down to force a short field goal.

Buffalo's final try came with six minutes left when linebacker Ray Lewis broke up a pass at the goal line and Williams grabbed the tipped ball to seal the win. Blockading the end zone has become a habit recently, with the Ravens not surrendering a touchdown in 19 series.

"It would seem arrogant to say that we aren't playing as well as we could play," Sanders said. "That's the truth."

Humility has been reserved for the Ravens' offense.

Without Jamal Lewis, who will serve the last game of his league suspension Sunday in Philadelphia, the Ravens could put together only one drive over 40 yards. It was an 83-yard one in the second quarter that was capped by B.J. Sams' 5-yard run, the only touchdown by the offense yesterday, and gave the Ravens a 17-3 lead.

Outside of that, the Ravens didn't make a first down on seven of their 12 possessions, including none on their last five.

Chester Taylor, who replaced Lewis, gained 57 of his 89 yards in the first half. Likewise, Boller was 10-for-16 for 86 yards in the first half and 0-for-3 the rest of the game. His last completed pass came with 2:54 left in the second quarter.

The offensive slide struck an emotional chord with Billick.

"We won, 20-6. Would you rather have the other?" he said. "I'm sure there's a bunch of teams that threw for a bunch of yards and lost this week. You choose. You tell me which one you want."

Asked if the Ravens could beat contending teams with this type of offensive effort, Billick said, "We'll find out next week, won't we?"

Billick wasn't the only one pointing to Sunday's game on the road against the undefeated Eagles.

Only a few minutes after yesterday's win, the Ravens' players already were talking about the challenge of facing quarterback Donovan McNabb and receiver Terrell Owens.

"If you're a great defense, you always want to go up against a great offense," Suggs said. "I think besides Minnesota, they're the hottest offense out there right now. We're definitely looking forward to seeing them. This is the type of game this team needs."

Bringing it back


returned an interception for a touchdown for the ninth time in his career, moving into a tie for second place on the NFL's all-time list.

Player, Seasons, TD


Rod Woodson, 1987-2003, 12

, 1989-'00, '04, 9


Ken Houston, 1967-1980, 9

Aeneas Williams, 1991-2004, 9


Eric Allen, 1988-2001, 8

Missing offense

While the defense protected a 14-point halftime lead, the Ravens' offense was nonexistent in the second half. A look at the offensive drop-off:

1st half, 2nd half

Plays: 35, 21

1st downs: 11, 1

Yds. rushing: 72, 28

Yds. passing: 71, -11

Total yards: 143, 17

Third-down eff.: 4-7, 0-6

Time of poss.: 17:34, 11:34