Ravens 20, Dolphins 3
Monday, January 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
MIAMI (AP) _ The Baltimore Ravens will strut, not stagger, into Pittsburgh this time.
The defending Super Bowl champions overwhelmed Miami with a dominating defense and a grinding running attack, and beat the Dolphins 20-3 in a wild-card playoff game Sunday.
The victory set up another rematch with the Steelers (13-3).
Pittsburgh won the last meeting between the AFC Central rivals, edging the Ravens 26-21 in Baltimore on Dec. 16. The Ravens were victorious in the first meeting, winning 13-10 at Heinz Field in early November thanks to Kris Brown's four missed field goals.
``Forget the regular season,'' Baltimore defensive end Peter Boulware said. ``What matters is what happens in the playoffs.''
It certainly seems that way for the Ravens (11-6), who have won five consecutive postseason games.
They struggled at times during the regular season and needed a win last week over Minnesota to make the playoffs. But they looked like the defending Super Bowl champs against the Dolphins (11-6).
``These are the January Ravens,'' tight end Shannon Sharpe said. ``The September, October, November and December Ravens _ we got rid of those guys.''
For Miami, the ending was painfully familiar. The Dolphins are the only team to reach the playoffs each of the past five years, but they've made an early exit every time by a combined score of 164-16.
The Dolphins couldn't run and couldn't stop the run against Baltimore, a bad combination that resulted in another lopsided postseason loss.
``You have to ask yourself who you've been fooling all year,'' Thomas said. ``You can say all you want about 11-5. I'd rather be 1-15 for a year and get some people in here.
``I'm tired of being good and not great.''
Good wasn't good enough against the Ravens, whose vaunted defense allowed only 151 yards, and Miami's lone score came after Baltimore fumbled the opening kickoff. The Dolphins managed just one first down in the opening 23 minutes and finished with nine.
Baltimore stuffed the Dolphins' feeble ground game _ holding Lamar Smith to 6 yards on six carries _ blanketed their receivers, harried Jay Fiedler and forced three turnovers.
The Ravens also showed surprising punch on offense. They rushed for a season-high 226 yards, converted 10 of 16 third downs and scored on touchdown marches of 90 and 99 yards, their longest of the season.
Terry Allen carried 25 times for 109 yards and a score, and Jason Brookins added 65 yards in 10 attempts.
Elvis Grbac, frequently maligned during his first year with the Ravens, went 12-for-18 for 133 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers.
``This is why I came here,'' Grbac said. ``Quarterbacks make their mark in the playoffs.''
Now the Ravens are headed back to Pittsburgh, having surrendered just a field goal in each of the last two games and carrying plenty of confidence into the divisional playoff game.
Baltimore was 4-3 when it visited Pittsburgh in November, having lost two of three games and coming off an 18-17 win at Jacksonville in which Grbac needed a last-second TD pass to Sharpe to pull out the victory.
``This is Round 3,'' linebacker Ray Lewis said. ``They won one, we won one. They know what's coming."