Ravens control temper, roll over Browns

BALTIMORE -- In a combination of hard hits, alert reactions and tempered emotions, the Baltimore Ravens regained their self control and a touch of their old defensive swagger. One week after an embarrassing meltdown, the Ravens calmly defeated the Cleveland Browns 16-3 Sunday by inflicting punishment on former teammate Trent Dilfer.

The Ravens sacked Dilfer four times and forced three turnovers, which directly led to 10 points as Baltimore (2-3) rebounded following the worst start to a season in franchise history. Now, the Ravens trail the Pittsburgh Steelers by one game in the AFC North and the Cincinnati Bengals by 2 ½ games.

"We played smarter, and we played for each other," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "It was a total team effort, and there was no individual playing alone."

In contrast to how the Ravens unraveled in Detroit with a franchise-record 21 penalties, they exploited Dilfer and didn't react angrily to 11 penalties.

"It was huge for us to come back for ourselves," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "We didn't do this for the fans or anybody else. We did this for the people in the locker room."

Baltimore began the game with two pieces of fortune.

First, an ankle-high shotgun snap from Cleveland center Jeff Faine was fumbled by Dilfer and recovered by linebacker Ray Lewis at the Browns' 20.

Five plays later, Anthony Wright located tight end Todd Heap on a 3-yard crossing route for the Ravens' lone touchdown. It was the first points the Ravens had scored off a turnover all season and their first touchdown in the first quarter.

"There was no way I was getting stopped at the 1-yard-line," said Heap, who stretched the football out barely enough for a touchdown to be signaled.

The assault of Dilfer, who quarterbacked the Ravens to a Super Bowl title in 2001, was relentless. Rush end Terrell Suggs forced a Dilfer fumble and had one sack.

"It doesn't matter who was at quarterback or what team you were playing, we needed to get a win," said linebacker Tommy Polley, who registered 1 1/2 sacks. "Everybody was doubting us, but we stuck together as a team all week."

The Browns didn't cross the Ravens' 47 during the first half in falling behind 16-0. They gained only four first downs and 66 yards by halftime.

"I didn't play well, we didn't play well on offense," said Dilfer, who posted a 53.1 passer rating. "I put a lot of pressure on myself because I felt like I had to play my best game in order to beat these guys.

"The emotional part wasn't hard. Unfortunately, the play was pretty hard. They're good. They hit you."

B.J. Sams' 51-yard punt return led to Matt Stover's 39-yard field goal for a 10-0 advantage. That big play was followed by Chester Taylor's career-long 52-yard jaunt to set up a 27-yard field goal.

"When we get a lead like that of 10 points, the defense can sit back and play the way they want to play," Heap said. "When they're able to do that, they're a lot more dangerous."

Plus, the Ravens didn't overreact to a questionable unnecessary roughness call on Lewis in the third quarter. One play later, Suggs, who was ejected last week for arguing with and bumping into an official, pressured Dilfer into Lewis' 21st career interception.

"It showed we can learn from our mistakes," said Suggs, introduced as a game captain along with Ed Reed and Derrick Mason after all three were fined last week. "We wanted to let you all know that we are a team of tremendous character. Last week was just a minor setback.

"That was a game where we let our emotions get the best of us, but we are all good guys. I think that's definitely what we were trying to show by our play."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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