Ravens: 'Sharks In The Water'

OWINGS MILLS -- Lamont Jordan can practically envision the approach of a prominent dorsal fin, the onslaught of razor-sharp teeth and a feeding frenzy on the football field. The Oakland Raiders' outspoken running back did everything but cue the "Jaws" theme music Wednesday while discussing the second-ranked Baltimore Ravens' defense he'll face Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

The resurgent Ravens were that vicious in shutting out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-0 to launch their season. And the once-proud Raiders were about as helpless and hapless as a baby seal during their embarrassing 27-0 unraveling against the San Diego Chargers on Monday night.

"I like to call them sharks, and if you know anything about sharks, they can smell blood a mile away," said Jordan, a former University of Maryland star who fumbled and was held to 20 yards on 10 carries against San Diego. "If the Ravens sense any type of softness, those guys are going to take advantage of you and they are going to beat you up.

"I think the word that stands out to me about the Ravens is physical. They are going to come out and hit you for 60 minutes." That was definitely the case against Tampa Bay as the defense registered a series of intimidating hits and intercepted quarterback Chris Simms three times with 123 yards of returns to lead to 17 points.

Plus, Baltimore (1-0) knocked down five passes, held Tampa Bay to 142 net yards, 26 rushing yards, an average of 2.8 yards per offensive play and generated three sacks. Quarterback Steve McNair was fairly efficient and led a nine-minute touchdown drive.

"We know we are playing against a very good football team in the Ravens," Raiders coach Art Shell said. "The talent speaks for itself. Of course, Steve McNair has been a great addition for them. He's the catalyst in my mind." Meanwhile, the reeling Raiders appeared completely disjointed and somewhat dysfunctional against the Chargers.

They allowed nine sacks, including three by Chargers outside linebacker Shawn Merriman against offensive tackle Robert Gallery. Quarterback Aaron Brooks went 6 for 14 for 68 passing yards in his debut with his new team.

The Ravens are determined to not overrate the importance of one notable win, or the Raiders' putrid display on national television.

"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," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. "We're not going to do that. We know the capability of the Oakland Raiders."

The last thing the Ravens want to fall victim to is arrogance and overconfidence after breaking an 11-game road losing streak. Especially after missing the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, underachievement that nearly cost coach Brian Billick his job.

"We will play well or we won't play well," Billick said. "If we don't, it won't be because we are not respectful or overlooking the Oakland Raiders. Not going to happen.

"I can't control some things that happen, but they know very well the pitfalls. They have seen the film and this is an extremely talented Oakland Raiders football team." Of course, the Raiders feature All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss, one of the most explosive vertical targets in the league. Jordan is a stocky, hard-running 1,000-yard rusher who scored nine touchdowns a year ago. And the enigmatic Brooks has always been known for his physical gifts, but never his leadership.

The Raiders' boisterous, swashbuckling image has been tarnished in recent years, and Oakland is coming off a 4-12 campaign that led to Shell's return.

"We need to bring that image back, what we showed out there was nothing ‘Silver and Black,'" Jordan said. "We can talk about how we want to get back to the Raiders tradition, but really talk means absolutely nothing.

"If you are going to beat the Ravens you have to match their intensity and be ready for a total-round fight. Right now, I'm preparing myself for war and that's what it's going to be." The Raiders have never been strangers to controversy.

The latest conflagration is whether disgruntled wide receiver Jerry Porter cheered and pumped his fist on the sidelines after Brooks was sacked again. Porter has publicly denied the published report, but it's obviously on Shell's mind even if he hasn't been able to confirm whether it's true or false. "It's a distraction," Shell acknowledged. "If that occurred, then that is something that is very disappointing to me that someone could do something like that.

"He is denying that it happened. I haven't been able to get concrete evidence that something happened that shouldn't have happened, then I'm moving on."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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