Ravens' defense angry

OWINGS MILLS - It was a harsh week for the Baltimore Ravens, complete with jurisprudence, nationally televised embarrassment and Ray Lewis' bloody nose.

It was a trying enough period with running back Jamal Lewis headed to prison after football season with his plea bargain and suspension for two games for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.

Add to those sobering facts, a humbling loss Monday night to the Kansas City Chiefs where linebacker Ray Lewis and a usually stout defense were bullied, another nationally televised game tonight against a geographic rival, and it's a definite equation for an annoyed, motivated football team.

In the Battle of the Beltway between the Ravens (2-2) and the Washington Redskins (1-3) at FedEx Field in Landover, the Ravens are looking to erase the knee-jerk perception of them as tackling dummies formed from the debacle against the Chiefs. It will be Jamal Lewis' last game before his suspension.

"A lot of guys aren't really talking, we're just honing in on what we have to do," said cornerback Gary Baxter days after Kansas City gained 398 yards of total offense and Priest Holmes rushed for 125 yards. "We know how serious things are right now. We didn't play too well on Monday night.

"We have a chance to redeem ourselves. You can just sense it in there."

Ravens coach Brian Billick emphasized that the loss to Kansas City struck a chord with a proud defense that dropped to 21st overall in the league. Quarterback Trent Green had plenty of time to dissect the Baltimore secondary, and was only sacked once.

"That's a prideful group," Billick said of the defense. "They don't like having done to them what happened the other night. I've seen that look in their eye before.

"They've got a great deal of pride and they're going to want to come back and show they're better than that."

Ray Lewis was engulfed by a variety of blockers and suffered a cut across the bridge of his nose. The Chiefs ran right at the All-Pro linebacker. Normally, it's Ray Lewis who doles out the punishment.

"Don't fool yourself," Ray Lewis said. "Nothing has drastically changed."

When asked if the Chiefs had authored a blueprint for how to run against Baltimore, Ray Lewis responded: "If it was a blueprint, then that means we're dominant."

Not lately, though.

Baltimore is ranked 18th against the run and 20th against the pass, surrendering 339 yards of total offense per contest.

One player Ray Lewis doesn't have a lot of faith in apparently is Redskins running back Clinton Portis.

Portis is the $50 million man who hasn't rushed for 100 yards in three games, has fumbled three times to contribute to all three losses and has only converted one 3rd-and-1 try.

"Portis isn't Priest," Ray Lewis said. "There's no controversy. He's not a Priest Holmes."

The Ravens have a long track record against Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell dating back to his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In only five games out of a dozen meetings was Baltimore able to hold Brunell to under 300 passing yards. Brunell has two formidable downfield targets in receivers Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner, who have combined for 44 receptions, 604 yards and two touchdowns. However, the Redskins have yet to eclipse 18 points.

"We know what his capabilities are," Billick said. "My admiration for Mark is well documented. He's an outstanding quarterback that can hurt you in a lot of ways."

The Ravens' secondary is allowing 222.8 yards a game and seems to be trying to make up for breakdowns in the front seven instead of concentrating fully on their own responsibilities.

"Communication and chemistry are the keys in a marriage," safety Will Demps said. "The way we've been playing football isn't us, and we'll show people that."

The return of Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs hasn't reversed the Redskins' fortunes under spendthrift owner Daniel Snyder, who fired Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after the 1999 campaign.

"I've seen a lot of bad things," Gibbs said. "We've had kind of a tough time here, certainly I have. I'm coming back in it and trying to do something for the franchise. I'd love to have a chance to try and help Washington return to its winning ways."

The Redskins have the top-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 59.5 yards on the ground per game and a scant 2.5 yards per carry. Yet, they haven't had to contend with anyone like the 5-foot-11, 240-pound Jamal Lewis, who posted 2,066 yards last season.

With an impending two-game suspension looming and the knowledge that his federal drug conspiracy case has been resolved, Jamal Lewis figures to be as revved up as the defense.

"Jamal is a beast," receiver Travis Taylor said, "and the Redskins are about to see the beast come out and prowl."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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