By Paul Mittermeier
Linebacker Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens' defense dominated for the second straight game on Sunday.
If six sacks and six turnovers weren't enough to make fans feel good about the 2006 edition of the Ravens' defense did not allow a first down in either first quarter.
Throughout the off-season there was plenty of talk by fans and the media about trading Lewis because he was unhappy and had lashed out at the organization after a disappointing 6-10 season. Everyone was questioning Lewis. Was he anywhere near the player he had been in previous seasons? Perhaps his unhappiness showed it was time for him to move on.
Ray Lewis had 7 tackles and an interception as the defense held Oakland to 162 yards total offense.
Oakland had just stopped the Ravens on the first possession of the second half and had decent field position at its own 39-yard line. During the first down, Lewis stuffed running back Justin Fargas at the line of scrimmage. On second down, Lewis dropped into pass coverage, tipped the ball to himself for an interception and returned it 27 yards.
Lewis is a great player because he is a game-changer. He has incredible instincts and athletic ability that allow him to change the entire momentum of a football game.
Fans should respect the fact that Lewis was upset about the way things went last year. It was a losing season, and Lewis is simply a guy who wants to win every week. Nobody should fault him for that.
Give credit to the Ravens. The team did not just write Lewis off, instead they improved the football team around the monster linebacker, giving them a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
The score of Sunday's game may look like it was an easy win on both sides of the ball, but in reality the Ravens struggled with Oakland's defense. The Ravens started with the ball in Raider territory seven times and could only manage four field goals.
One player in the shadow of the performance of the defense is return specialist B.J. Sams. Sams set the tone for the game with his 72-yard kickoff return. He averaged more than 40 yards on four kickoff returns.
Quarterback Steve McNair struggled in Sunday's game, completing just 16 of 33 passes for 143 yards. McNair misfired on numerous passes, but after the Raiders scored their first points McNair engineered the best scoring drive of the day. He led the Ravens 65 yards in seven plays to a 16-3 halftime lead. That's a clutch effort at a key time.
If McNair continues to make those kind of plays the Ravens will win a lot of football games, regardless of what his final stat line looks like.
Issue 1.22: Spetember 21, 2006