By shutting out the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 27-0 win on Sunday, the Ravens (9-2) now can clinch their first AFC North title since 2003 if they beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
But becoming the first team to clinch a playoff spot was a scenario few players
wanted to address. Inside the Ravens' locker room, a division title is the next
step but far from the ultimate goal.
"Our motivation is one thing: That's winning a championship," receiver
Derrick Mason said. "If we set everything on winning the division, we set
ourselves up for failure. What we have in mind is bigger than winning a
Off to the best start in team history, the Ravens can have those aspirations
because they are peaking at the right time.
Their defense has become dangerous with a relentless pass rush. Their offense
has become physical with a punishing running game.
Against Pittsburgh, the Ravens tied a team record with nine sacks, coming at
quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with waves of blitzes. Seven players recorded
The Ravens' offense provided the other punch to the gut. Running back Jamal Lewis continued his resurgent run, driving his legs and hitting Pittsburgh
defenders backward. He gained 61 of his 66 yards in a first half owned by the
"People don't like watching it on tape," defensive end Trevor Pryce
said. "We look like world beaters."
By halftime on Sunday, the Ravens had run out to a 17-0 lead, scoring two
touchdowns (a 20-yard pass to Todd Heap and a one-yard run by Lewis) while not
permitting the Steelers past midfield.
By the end of the game, the Ravens had delivered their statement.
"Come late November and December, if your offense doesn't have a nasty
attitude, you won't go far in this game," Mason said. "You got to want
to have the attitude: 'If you're going to take this game from us, you have to
physically beat us up.'"
The Ravens' five-game winning streak is their longest since their 2000 Super
Bowl season. And after blanking Tampa Bay in the season opener and the Steelers
on Sunday, it marks the first time that the Ravens have registered multiple
shutouts in a season since -- yet again -- the 2000 Super Bowl season.
This season's Ravens respect that historic defense but they want to carve out
their own identity.
"This defense right here is totally different," said linebacker Ray Lewis, who returned after missing two games with a bruised back. "We have
so much athleticism that it's scary."
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