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Sunday, November 1, 2009
Ravens' D playing 'angry' again

 Geoff Burke/US Presswire
 Terrell Suggs and the Ravens defense limited Denver quarterback Kyle Orton to 152 yards passing.
Posted by's James Walker

BALTIMORE -- Terrell Suggs was a little confused Sunday.

The Pro Bowl linebacker/defensive end hybrid couldn't fathom why the Baltimore Ravens weren't considered the most feared defense entering their high-profile matchup with the Denver Broncos.

"That was the case today?" Suggs asked. "Wow! Look how times have changed."

Suggs’ surprised response stemmed from Baltimore’s dominant showing in a 30-7 victory over previously undefeated Denver. The win ended a six-game winning streak for the Broncos (6-1), who had frustrated opponents by pounding teams defensively the same way the Ravens (4-3) had in the past.

But the past became the present as Baltimore’s defense best utilized its bye week by reverting to its nasty brand of physical football.

The Ravens rattled and confused Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton and held Denver to only 66 yards rushing. With the defense setting the tone, Baltimore forced Denver into submission, which is something no other team this year had been able to do.

"They were coming off their bye week where they were the best team in the NFL, and we were coming off our bye week where we had three disappointing losses," Suggs said. "We had a whole week with that on our mind and we were just hungry. We were angry, and we very confident coming in."

Say what you want about the Ravens’ defense. But first and foremost, it’s a prideful group.

Some may disagree with their penchant for chest-thumping and brash talk, but the Ravens put a lot of hard work into building their defensive reputation through the years. Yet veterans such as Ray Lewis, Suggs and Ed Reed recently endured a lot of criticism for being the No. 19-ranked defense entering the game against Denver, which had held opponents to a league-low 11 points per game.

It’s difficult to remember a time when so many people doubted Baltimore defensively. But Sunday's performance went a long way toward showing what its defense is still capable of.

"We have good players," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It was fun to see them be able to do some things that they’ve been working hard to try and get done."

Denver’s game plan played perfectly into the Ravens' hands. The teams that gave Baltimore the most trouble this year all had great quarterbacks who weren’t afraid to challenge the Ravens vertically.

The Broncos are not a vertical team. They win with defense, field position and efficient play from Orton. But Baltimore made it look easy in beating Denver at its own game.

 Larry French/Getty Images
 The Ravens limited the Broncos to just 200 yards of total offense.
The Ravens stuffed the run and a majority of Denver’s screens, leaving the Broncos with very few options. Orton completed 23 of 37 passes for 152 yards and generally looked confused and out of rhythm for the first time this season. The Ravens sacked Orton twice and hit him often enough to make him uncomfortable.

Baltimore's offense also played better in the second half, and the special teams had a big return to start the third quarter. Rookie defensive back Lardarius Webb scored the first touchdown of the game on a 95-yard kickoff return to give the Ravens a 13-0 lead. It jump-started Baltimore’s run of 24 points in the second half.

Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 20 of 25 passes -- including 14 straight to end the game -- for 175 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens outgained Denver's offense 292-200, not including the big return.

"We have to be able to play tight defense no matter what we do," Reed said. "But give credit to our offense and special teams. There's no one side of the ball that can go without the other."

Last year Baltimore lost three games in a row early before making a run to the AFC Championship Game. If the Ravens continue to play defense at this level, there is no reason to believe they can't get hot once again.

A dominant performance against the Broncos is a good achievement. But the result is a setup to next week's huge division game against the first-place Cincinnati Bengals (5-2).

With the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) on a bye, the Ravens gained a half-game in the standings to further tighten the AFC North race. It should be an interesting month of November as all three teams play each other over the next few weeks.

"They had a week off, [and] we know they’re going to be really, really excited about seeing us coming in there, trying to go two up on us in the division," Lewis said of Cincinnati. "And the bottom line is, we understand what's in front of us."