They were determined to make amends for an embarrassing
performance one week earlier, and harassing their former teammate
was merely a means to that end.
Baltimore forced Dilfer into three turnovers and sacked him four
times Sunday, key ingredients in a 16-3 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Todd Heap scored the only touchdown for the Ravens (2-3), who
were off to the worst start in franchise history after being
penalized 21 times last week in a 35-17 defeat at Detroit.
"It doesn't matter who was at quarterback or what team you were
playing, we needed to get a win here today," said Baltimore
linebacker Tommy Polley, who had 1½ sacks. "Everybody was doubting
us, but we stuck together as a team all week."
Against the Lions, the Ravens received several unsportsmanlike
conduct penalties, and Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed were ejected for
shoving officials. The entire defense played with much more
composure against the Browns, who didn't get past the Baltimore 47
in the decisive first half.
"We played smarter, and we played for each other," cornerback
Samari Rolle said.
Dilfer led the Ravens to a lopsided win in the 2001 Super Bowl
but was released after the season when Baltimore signed Elvis Grbac. Neither Dilfer nor the Ravens have fared well since parting
ways, and this was a chance for the quarterback to show his former
teammates -- and coach Brian Billick -- what they're missing.
Nothing went according to plan.
Back in Baltimore as a starter for the first time since his
departure, Dilfer struggled from the outset. He fumbled a snap on
Cleveland's first offensive play, setting up Heap's touchdown, and
lost another fumble that led to a field goal.
"I didn't play well. We didn't play well on offense," Dilfer
said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself because I felt like I had
to play my best game in order to beat these guys. The atmosphere
wasn't that big a deal; I've played in a lot of hostile
Dilfer practiced against Ray Lewis during the 2000 season, but
Sunday he was forced to go up against the standout linebacker under
vastly different circumstances. Lewis won the battle: He recovered
Dilfer's first fumble, had an interception and was credited with
Dilfer finished 16-for-30 for 147 yards, and the Browns (2-3)
failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season.
"They're good. They rush everybody, they hit you," Dilfer
Cleveland managed only four first downs and 66 yards in offense
in the first half and trailed 16-0 at the break. The Browns' lone
points came on a 24-yard field goal by Phil Dawson midway through
the third quarter.
"We took a step back today," first-year coach Romeo Crennel
said. "Now we have to go back to the drawing board, start over and
try to dig ourselves out of a hole."
Baltimore got its initial first-quarter touchdown of the season
after Lewis recovered Dilfer's fumble on the Cleveland 20. Five
plays later, Wright threw a 3-yarder to Heap, marking the first
time this season the Ravens scored a touchdown off a turnover.
"When we get a lead like that of 10 points, the defense can sit
back and play the way they want to play," Heap said. "When
they're able to do that, they're a lot more dangerous."
On Baltimore's next possession, a career-best 52-yard run by
Taylor preceded a 27-yard field goal to make it 13-0.
Late in the half, after Gary Baxter intercepted a deflected pass
to ruin a Baltimore drive that had consumed nearly six minutes,
Dilfer fumbled while being sacked by Suggs. Adalius Thomas
recovered on the Cleveland 36 to set up a field goal by Stover on
the final play of the half.
Baltimore came in with a minus-9 turnover differential, but on
this afternoon, the Ravens won the turnover battle -- and the game.
Reed, Baltimore wide receiver Mark Clayton and fullback Ovie Mughelli left
with ankle sprains. ... Cleveland linebacker Nick Speegle also left with
an ankle injury. ... Umpire Butch Hannah sprained a knee ligament
in a collision with Heap. He will be out three to four weeks.
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