By Paul Mittermeier
The Baltimore Ravens were officially introduced as a legitimate playoff contender with their resounding 27-0 Week One road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Getting off to a fast start in 2006 was important for a team with a damaged psyche, and Baltimore erased the agony of its 11-game road losing streak.
The win was the most lopsided road victory since the Ravens crushed the Browns 35-0 at the end of the 2003 season. The difference? That Browns team had packed in its season. This was a Tampa Bay team that boasted the top-ranked defense last year, and is expected to be one of the elite teams in the NFC.
There was plenty for Ray Lewis to celebrate in the Ravens' Week One victory. (Sabina Moran/PressBox)
The Steve McNair era in Baltimore started with a 16-play, 80-yard drive that included a one-handed catch by Todd Heap and concluded with a 4-yard touchdown run by Jamal Lewis.
The offensive line was extremely impressive, giving McNair time to throw as they wore down the best defense in the NFL.
While the offense is still a work in progress, it was easy to see that McNair has the best pocket presence of any quarterback the Ravens have ever had. And, when the Ravens offense sputtered, Sam Koch was there to bail the Ravens out with a big punt.
The Ravens defense fed off the success of the offense. The defense smothered the Tampa Bay running attack, limiting Cadillac Williams to just 22 yards. Tampa had just one first down in the first quarter, and just eight for the entire game. The Ravens had three take-aways, including a Chris McAlister interception that was returned for a touchdown. Ray Lewis and Bart Scott created havoc all day.
Scott recorded two sacks and tipped the ball that Haloti Ngata intercepted late in the second quarter. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's schemes confused Simms and the Tampa Offense all day long.
The game in Tampa Bay was reminiscent of the 2000 season. The offense struggled at times, but did not turn the ball over and never put the defense in a bad situation. It was old-school Ravens football - run the ball, make some plays in the passing game, and put the opposing offense on lock-down.
It's a long season and anything can happen, but for one day it was fun to watch the Ravens exorcise its road demons.
Issue 1.21: September 14, 2006