The Ravens responded by unifying an oppressive defense with an opportunistic offense, a combination that knocked out the Cleveland Browns in a 16-3 victory yesterday before 70,196 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Instead of angrily bumping into officials, the Ravens pounded out drive after drive, holding onto the ball for 37 minutes to dominate time of possession.
The Ravens' second win in their past three games was short on flash but long on determination, one in which they controlled the game and, more importantly, controlled their emotions.
"We played smarter and played for each other," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "It was a total team effort, and there was no individualism. The thing is we can't go back to where we were last week."
The return of Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer, the starter in the Ravens' January 2001 Super Bowl triumph, brought back the championship look in the Ravens' defense.
The Ravens (2-3) only permitted Cleveland past their 46-yard line once and never any closer than their 7. The Browns (2-3) were limited to a season-low 186 yards.
"We never felt like they could drive the ball down the field on us," Rolle said.
Dilfer, who received a warm reception in pre-game introductions, was cold from the start. On the Browns' first play, he couldn't handle a low, shotgun snap, a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Ray Lewis at the Cleveland 20.
Five plays later, Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright found tight end Todd Heap on a shallow crossing route. Heap finished off the 3-yard touchdown by extending the ball over the goal line with cornerback Daylon McCutcheon on his back.
The Ravens' first touchdown off a turnover represented the only selfish act of the game.
"There was no way I was going to be stopped on the 1-yard line and give the touchdown to Jamal [Lewis]," Heap said with a grin.
The big plays that had been lacking in the first quarter of the season came in a first-half rush.
B.J. Sams' 51-yard punt return - his longest of the season - led to Matt Stover's 39-yard field goal late in the first quarter. Chester Taylor's 52-yard dash - the longest of his career - set up Stover's 27-yarder early in the second quarter.
The 13-0 lead seemed tenuous after Wright was intercepted in the red zone for the second straight game. But the Ravens took the ball right back when Terrell Suggs slapped it out of Dilfer's hand.
Starting at Cleveland's 36, the Ravens ended a haphazard two-minute drill with a 38-yard field goal by Stover, putting them up 16-0 at halftime.
The Ravens' defense forced three turnovers in the game, matching its total in the first four games.
"That's our style of play," Suggs said. "That's the way we've been playing since the franchise moved here."