Ravens trounce Rams the old-fashioned way

BALTIMORE -- The barrage never halted, a bullying series of hits that left Gus Frerotte writhing in pain and wondering when the Baltimore Ravens would stop bashing him into the ground.

Between multiple haymakers to the harried quarterback's jaw and power shots to his ribs to rival a heavyweight boxing match, blows that led to a franchise-record five interceptions, the outcome of the Ravens' 22-3 victory Sunday over the winless St. Louis Rams at M&T Bank Stadium was never in doubt despite a stumbling offense that needed kicker Matt Stover to tie a club-record with five field goals.

It didn't seem to affect the Ravens' fortunes as they won the 100th game in franchise history, including the playofs, that starting quarterback Steve McNair was held out with a tight back and a lingering groin pull that will probably keep him out next week against the Buffalo Bills, according to Ravens coach Brian Billick.

Backup quarterback Kyle Boller directed a depleted offense that started three rookies on the offensive line, only scoring a dozen points off a team-record six turnovers.

Even though they had just dispatched one of the worst teams in the NFL, one bereft of its starting quarterback, All-Pro left tackle, star running back and three wide receivers, the Ravens (4-2) got a confidence boost as they dominated behind a defense flexing its muscles.

"I think by the time the fourth quarter came around, they were ready to get on the buses," linebacker Bart Scott said. "Perception isn't reality, but you guys think perception is reality sometimes. We give up some big plays and people think the Ravens' defense isn't intimidating, but ask the Cleveland Browns how they felt after playing us.

"The reality is the swagger never left. We're getting our chemistry back. People have already crowned the Patriots the champions. Let's see when the dust settles."

Frerotte set a career-high for interceptions and was sacked four times, absorbing blistering hits as St. Louis (0-6) had no answers for the Ravens' fierce pass rush.

The journeyman backup was pounced on by 6-foot-4, 340-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata with hefty nose guard Kelly Gregg, who also had a fumble recovery, landing on him along with backup lineman Justin Bannan and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs notching his first sack since last Dec. 31, 2006.

"What hurts? You name it," Frerotte said after the Rams dropped to 0-6 for the first time since 1962 when the team was in Los Angeles. "On the last play, I took a shot to the jaw and it felt like I was punched. Earlier in the game, I took a shot to the ribs. What's happened to us makes me sick."

The Rams were missing quarterback Marc Bulger, offensive tackle Orlando Pace, running back Steven Jackson and wide receiver Isaac Bruce, and several others.

"We knew they was wounded," Suggs said. "We smelled blood and we went after it."

A few times, it didn't look like Frerotte, who was starting because Bulger was out with broken ribs, was going to get up.

"He took it like a man, I applaud him," Suggs said of Frerotte. "He showed tremendous heart out there. We kept hitting him and he just kept coming back for more."

As did the Ravens' defensive backs.

They happily benefited from Frerotte gift-wrapping throws, including one interception he short-armed to Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister despite wide receiver Drew Bennett standing several yards behind McAlister for a potential touchdown.

Plus, safety Ed Reed settled under a lazy pop fly where he practically could have called for a fair catch.

"Once they start coming, the interceptions keep coming, the sacks keep coming and it's a momentum thing," McAlister said. "Once they got started, there's really no stopping the train."

Frerotte also tossed interceptions to Corey Ivy, had one deflected into defensive lineman Dwan Edwards' hands, and gave nickel back Derrick Martin his first NFL interception.

"It was like getting candy," Martin said.

Only it wasn't Halloween as Frerotte completed just 19 of 36 passes for 208 yards and a putrid 30.6 rating.

Baltimore held Pro Bowl wide receiver Torry Holt to four catches for 33 yards, welcoming cornerback Samari Rolle back after missing three games with an undisclosed illness that briefly hospitalized him.

"We just tried to neutralize them and throw their timing off," Ivy said. "A lot of their game plan is timing, so we threw it off. We knew he was going to give us a chance for some interceptions."

Frerotte didn't get any help from the running game, either, as rookie Brian Leonard rushed for 18 yards on 12 carries, averaging 1.5 per carry after gaining over 100 last week. St. Louis rushed for 67 yards on 27 carries for a 2.5 average.

"For our defense, the one wrong thing really is to let us get a lead," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I think we got after them and carried us.

"Right now, we're really starting to hit our stride. I don't care how pretty it is. I don't care how ugly it is. I think we're doing the right things to prime up for November and December."

Although the Ravens' woeful red-zone offense went 1-for-5 inside the Rams' 20-yard line, they did break a string of 18 series without a touchdown that dated back to the fourth quarter of a 27-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

With 4:13 remaining in the second quarter, running back Willis McGahee rumbled off the left side behind rookie Ben Grubbs' lead block for a 6-yard touchdown run that marks his first on the ground since joining the team in an offseason trade.

The score gave Baltimore a 13-0 halftime lead. "I'm happy, everybody's happy," said McGahee, who rushed for just 61 yards on 25 carries. "We finally scored in the red zone."

This is the Ravens' first victory by more than seven points this season.

Boller completed 18 of 30 passes for 184 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, as the Ravens kept stalling.

"We have a lot of things to work on," Boller said. "Everything can be corrected. I missed some shots and we have a young offensive line out there, too. Our defense played unbelievably."

By halftime, St. Louis had two turnovers, four first downs and 83 yards of total offense with Frerotte sacked three times and intercepted twice.

Even though the offense didn't capitalize fully on the turnovers, Stover kept booting them through the uprights.

"Busy day, very busy day," Stover said. "I think you guys remember back in the Super Bowl season when we won however we could."

Despite just two touchdowns in the past dozen quarters, the Ravens struck a confident stance that they can continue winning with a familiar formula. That is, if there's a semblance of an offense and a lead.

"It's almost humanly impossible to deal with our defense after that," Lewis said. "It's going to be a long time before you come back on us like that. The way we're playing defense that isn't going to happen."


1. The Baltimore Ravens' 22-3 victory over the winless St. Louis Rams on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium was punctuated by six turnovers to tie a team record, including a franchise-record five interceptions from defensive backs Chris McAlister, Derrick Martin, Ed Reed and Corey Ivy with even defensive end Dwan Edwards notching one off a deflected pass. Baltimore's fourth-ranked defense (4-2) victimized an extremely shorthanded Rams offense (0-6), shutting down their running game for just 67 net rushing yards on 27 carries for a 2.5 average per carry. The Rams were playing without starting quarterback Marc Bulger, All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace, star running back Steven Jackson and wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Dante Hall. This marks the Ravens' 100th win in franchise history, including playoff victories.

2. This game would have degenerated into a full-scale rout if not for the Ravens following their tradition of botching things in the red zone. They went 1-for-5 inside the Rams' 20-yard line after entering the game ranked 28th overall in red-zone scoring. Willis McGahee's touchdown run broke a streak of 18 series without a touchdown. Veteran kicker Matt Stover booted five field goals, including kicks from 43, 42, 23, 31 and 36 yards to tie a career-high and a Ravens team record.

3. The Ravens nearly knocked beleaguered Rams backup quarterback Gus Frerotte out of the game, sacking him four times. They continually harassed Frerotte, holding him to 19 of 36 accuracy for 208 yards and a 30.6 rating. Nose guard Kelly Gregg was particularly impressive, recording a sack for the second week in a row and recovering a fumble. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs registered his first sack of the year, his first since the final game of last year. Plus, defensive tackles Justin Bannan and Haloti Ngata picked up sacks.

4. Despite starting quarterback Steve McNair being scratched with a tight back and a lingering groin pull, the offense managed to keep dinking and dunking down the field with a few longer strikes mixed in throughout, including 34 and 28-yard completions. Backup quarterback Kyle Boller completed 18 of 30 passes for 184 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a 63.8 rating. He's scheduled to start next week so McNair can get three weeks to rest, including the bye, prior to the Ravens' Nov. 5 Monday night game against the AFC North division rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

5. McGahee only rushed for 61 yards, but did bust into the end zone on the ground for the first time since joining the Ravens in an offseason trade. It represents the Ravens' sixth offensive touchdown in six games.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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