A tale of two defenses

A dominating linebacker in the middle. A playmaking safety patrolling the secondary. Pressure from the edge. Sounds a lot like the Baltimore Ravens.

The defense the Oakland Raiders aspire to be will be on the field Sunday wearing the purple jerseys.

A defense can not only shut down an opponent, but shut them out. A team that plays with reckless abandon and seems to enjoy itself in the process.

It belongs to the Baltimore Ravens, a team that has long been admired by their peers in the NFL.

"I like to see teams that fly around, play with enthusiasm, and they're definitely one of those teams," Raiders linebacker Sam Williams said. "Every time we're on the field we want to get a turnover and score. That's what how good defenses are, how they are."

Defensive end Derrick Burgess, the NFL sack leader in 2006 with 16, doesn't think direct comparisons are valid among any teams, but that doesn't stop him from paying attention when the Ravens play.

"We're different teams and we have different schemes, but I like the way they play the game," Burgess said.

About the only common strain between the two defenses is each is run by a son of Buddy Ryan. Rob Ryan is defensive coordinator for the Raiders, his twin brother Rex is the defensive coordinator for Baltimore.

While the Raiders consider themselves a defense with multiple looks, they're not anywhere near the Ravens in that regard.

"Rob doesn't do as much as his brother," Raiders coach Art Shell said. "His brother is all over the place. Rob is more conservative."

Shutouts are relevant this week considering both the Raiders and Ravens are coming off one. The Raiders got shut out 27-0 by the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens shut out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by the same score.

Baltimore's shutout win was the eighth since the inception of the franchise in 1999, a span of 113 games.

The Raiders have two shutouts during that span -- a 45-0 win over Tampa Bay in 1999 and a 24-0 win over Kansas City to close out the 2002 regular season.

It has taken the Raiders 439 games to get its last eight shutouts, with the first of those eight coming on Dec. 12, 1976 when the coach was John Madden and the Raiders were preparing for a playoff run that would culminate in their first Super Bowl championship.

Rookie free safety Michael Huff said he keeps a close eye on Ravens safety Ed Reed and cornerback Chris McAlister, in particular.

"They find ways to make plays," Huff said. "That's what we're striving to do here."

Ravens:

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis faced questions about whether he still could be an impact player.

By the end of his first meaningful game in 11 months, he delivered the answer.

On third-and-goal in Tampa Bay, Lewis hammered Michael Pittman near the goal line, causing the Buccaneers running back to drop the pass.

"Those who think they have seen diminishing skills ought to talk to Mr. Pittman and Mr. (Carnell) Williams down in Tampa," coach Brian Billick said. "They'll attest that the skills look pretty good."

Lewis finished with seven tackles, a sack and three passes broken up. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

It was a strong start for Lewis, who missed the last 10 games last season with a torn hamstring. The Ravens publicly said the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year would return fine, but no one knew for certain until he played a full game.

"The only people I try to have my trust in is my teammates," Lewis said. "They understand why I'm here and where we're trying to go as a team."

More than the past two previous seasons, Lewis has committed himself to being more of a leader. It's his job to make sure the Ravens avoid letting down against the Oakland Raiders.

The Ravens are extremely confident after opening the season with a 27-0 win at Tampa Bay. But they can't be too confident just because the Raiders lost 27-0 to the San Diego Chargers.

"That's like a boxer watching a previous fight -- somebody getting knocked out in the first round and then they come in and take their opponent lightly and they get knocked out," Lewis said. "We're not going to do that. Right now, our focus is trying to get another win."

Unlike previous years, when the Ravens have boasted about their success, this group seems more grounded.

"You got to remember it's only Week 1," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "I'm not falling for this. I've been around too long and I have too many Super Bowls and Pro Bowls, to fall for 'Hey, you're all doing great.' If we had 10 shutouts in a row, then maybe I'll say something. We played well but they present a challenge. We're not playing against a college team."

The Ravens don't want the Raiders to get any momentum, which means they have to be just as physical with Oakland. "That's always been a part of our identity," linebacker Bart Scott said. "We've always been tough and hard-nosed, a physical defense. We've never been considered a finesse defense. So it's pretty much more of the same."


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