Ravens win with defense

BALTIMORE -- Between a barrage of blitzes for a series of body blows, the Baltimore Ravens punished Buffalo Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

And then they exploited the veteran passer when he got the football downfield in a defensive display that made up for the absence of suspended Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis and an unproductive offense.

The Ravens' 20-6 victory Sunday before 69,809 at M&T Bank Stadium was marked by a show of brute force for five turnovers, four sacks and three goal-line stands. However, All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden pulled his hamstring and will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam today to determine how long he'll be out.

Meanwhile, Baltimore (4-2) intercepted Buffalo (1-5) four times to tie a club record, including two interceptions by venerable, high-stepping nickel back Deion Sanders.

"We caused havoc," said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who slammed Bledsoe twice to boost his sack total to seven for the year and 19 in 22 career games. "We knew their offensive line was suspect to allowing sacks. Who's hungrier than me at pass rushing? Bledsoe ran into a purple haze." Equally ravenous was a host of opportunistic athletes, most notably Sanders, the 37-year-old future Hall of Fame cornerback.

Sanders broke a 3-3 tie in the first quarter when safety Chad Williams deflected a Bledsoe pass directly into his waiting hands to generate a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Sanders made his 50th career interception and 23rd touchdown a memorable one, complete with high-stepping theatrics as he ran down the field and his patented end-zone choreography. Later, Sanders intercepted Bledsoe in the end zone.

Afterward, Sanders was dressed for success in a stylish green suit complete with a vest, fedora and cuff links.

"They talked about me before I came here: 'He's too old. He shouldn't be doing this.' I'm a 37-year-old kid out there," said Sanders, whose 10-yard loss on a reverse was the only blemish on his top performance since ending his three-year retirement. "I was smiling so much.

"It's so funny because at breakfast this morning I told the guys, 'Now, guys when I get into the end zone, stand back, make me dance first then you congratulate me.'"

Sanders became the second-oldest player to return an interception for a touchdown behind former Baltimore and Oakland safety Rod Woodson.

"He was Prime Time," Suggs said. "I love the way he danced."

Sanders' touchdown and a 10-3 lead were essentially enough to make up for an offense that handed Buffalo the key to a 3-0 lead when quarterback Kyle Boller fumbled on the second play of the game on a sack by end Aaron Schobel.

Boller completed his first eight passes for 79 yards, but only 2 of his next 11 for seven more yards. He didn't complete another pass after halftime on three attempts.

"I'm sure there's a bunch of teams that threw for a bunch of yards, had a bunch of yards and lost this week," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "You choose. You tell me which one you want."

When asked if the Ravens can compete with elite teams such as the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday, Billick said: "We'll find out next week unless you want to call it right now and we don't even need to show up. Good, then we'll show up."

The Bills outgained the Ravens in total yardage 270-160, but Boller's inconsistency was made up for by running back Chester Taylor.Taylor gained a career-high 89 yards on 21 carries in his first start in place of Lewis, who was suspended for two games by the league for pleading guilty Oct. 7 to using a cellular phone to facilitate a drug transaction.

"Jamal has big shoes to fill, but I think I did fine," Taylor said. "Jamal told me to run hard, so that's what I try to do."

Rookie running back B.J. Sams dashed five yards on a sweep to the left for his first NFL rushing touchdown and his third score in the last three weeks for a 17-3 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter after Buffalo's Rian Lindell kicked a 21-yard field goal set up by a 49-yard pass to Eric Moulds, Suggs turned up the heat. He stuck Bledsoe in the chest to force a fumble recovered by Jarret Johnson.

In the fourth quarter, Sanders intercepted Bledsoe in the end zone on a pass intended for rookie Lee Evans.

"For those that didn't think it was a good move, then maybe they want to rethink that," Billick said regarding Sanders' acquisition.

When Bledsoe tried to force the football again to Evans two possessions later, Williams intercepted a pass deflected by Ray Lewis and dashed 94 yards. The safety was caught from behind by Moulds despite an entourage of blockers.

"I ran out of gas," Williams said. "Gas is high right now."

Despite a 3rd-and-1 at the Bills' goal line, Boller didn't put enough air on a pass intended for tight end Terry Jones in the end zone. Boller appeared hesitant on the throw, and it was too low for Jones to grasp.

"I'll have to check the tape," Boller said when asked about his second-half swoon.

The Ravens will attempt to win with a similar formula in Philadelphia against All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens, whose trade to Baltimore was nullified after his noisy complaints to the league management council.

"As a great defense, you always want to go up against the best offenses and we're definitely looking forward to playing them," Suggs said. "Now, we get to see what happens when the bullets are real."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

Ravens Insider Top Stories