Ravens defense linked to vintage 2000 edition

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The inevitable comparisons have already begun between the Baltimore Ravens' record-setting defense that defined their Super Bowl team, and this year's promising edition. It's a natural reaction, albeit a tad premature after two games.

The Ravens have the top-ranked defense in the league having gone two consecutive games without allowing a touchdown. That hasn't happened since 2000.

They've intercepted three passes for two games in a row for the first time since the Super Bowl year. The team is 2-0 for the first time in six seasons. And the Ravens are atop the turnover-margin chart with a plus-8 ratio.

However, the fast start has come at the expense of the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. Although Baltimore has surrendered only six points, there's 14 more games left. It's a hard standard to approach a dominant defense that set an NFL regular-season record by allowing just 165 points. "I can understand people doing that, it's fun to talk about," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "But we're not going to do it. This is a different group of people, different scheme, different idea. "You always pull back on your heritage a little bit, but there's no upside for us drawing too much into that."

YOUTH MOVEMENT: The Ravens have granted a lot of young athletes extended playing time on defense, and the gamble has been paying off so far.

Rookie safety Dawan Landry led Baltimore with eight tackles Sunday. Evan Oglesby filled in capably at cornerback when Samari Rolle was hurt. And rookie nickel back Ronnie Prude intercepted a pass and downed a Sam Koch punt near the Raiders' goal line with an over-the-shoulder catch. "Dawan Landry continues to play as though he has been in the league for a while," Billick said. "Evan Oglesby, against a very talented receiving group, to step up the way he did, is very encouraging."

EMOTIONAL: Cornerback Chris McAlister was infuriated by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that followed him being flagged by a pass interference call. "I didn't understand it," he said. Clearly angry, McAlister rapidly approached Billick in the bench area before teammates held him back. "Whether a call is right or not and that's a pivotal point, you can't let your frustration get to the point that you let that happen," Billick said. "Chris knows he left us vulnerable, particularly with Samari being down. "Took him a while to cool down, we would like for that to be faster. Chris recognizes that. We will address it with Chris, with the whole team, very specifically."

QUICK HITS: Billick indicated that offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended knee) and Rolle (sprained foot) are feeling better and aren't in danger of being unavailable Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

… Referencing the advice of former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant, whom he called a mentor, Billick acknowledged the importance of beating teams like Oakland where Baltimore is expected to win. "It wasn't pretty in some instances, but the players responded with a 28-6 win against a team, with no disrespect meant, we should beat at home under those circumstances," he said. "They are struggling right now to find themselves. Every 0-2 team is to a certain degree."

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

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