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Ravens talk good game and play a better one

A 24-10 win over the defending AFC champion Titans sends Baltimore to Oakland for the conference title game.

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2001


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Any team can look good on film. Give the Ravens credit for knowing how to sound good, too.

Perhaps that explains why the Ravens were underestimated going into the post-season. The NFL had not released their soundtrack.

The Ravens talk loud, proud and in front of a crowd. This is a team in desperate need of a closed-captioning deal.

In the past week, the Ravens called Tennessee running back Eddie George a baby. They said the Titans did not deserve to have the No. 1-ranked defense. Essentially, they said they were going to beat the Titans.

According to the cliche, talk is cheap.

This morning, so are those Super Bowl XXXV T-shirts in Nashville.

Baltimore dethroned the defending AFC champions on Sunday, beating the six-point favored Titans 24-10 to advance to the conference championship Sunday in Oakland.

And, imagine this, the Ravens had enough energy left to talk about some of their favorite topics. For instance, themselves.

Hear Shannon Sharpe describe how he got open for a 56-yard reception:

"I'm fast. I'm bad fast," Sharpe said. "Speed, man. I'm telling you I've got Randy Moss speed. Okay, maybe not Randy Moss. Maybe Spanish moss."

Or Tony Siragusa explaining how Baltimore has won twice at Adelphia Stadium while the rest of the NFL is 0-15:

"If I knew that, I'd be a genius. Hold on, I am a genius. Give me a minute and I'll come up with an answer."

Or coach Brian Billick, a former offensive coordinator, after his offense gained 134 yards and still won going away:

"You guys need to keep calling me an offensive guru. I need all the help I can get at this point."

As for Baltimore's second straight victory at Adelphia:

"We foreclosed on this place," Sharpe said. "They need to start paying us rent."

Is it any wonder that the afternoon began with the Ravens talking smack?

The Titans spliced together several clips of Billick addressing his team after victories, telling players they were heading to the Super Bowl. The montage was played on the stadium scoreboard just before the game, and the crowd of 68,527 booed loudly.

Billick privately seethed at the tactic but presented a confident face on the sideline.

"I laughed about it," Billick said. "I told the players, 'My a-- is on the line, you better back me up.' "

And, naturally, they did.

Oh, it was not the prettiest victory of the weekend.

The running back rushed for 47 yards. The quarterback completed five passes. The punter had two kicks blocked.

And that was the winning team.

"People can say what they want to, I don't care," said Trent Dilfer, who is one victory from becoming the fourth ex-Buccaneer quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl in the past 13 years. "I know what I can do. I know what it takes to win."

On this team, it takes little offense, a big play or two on special teams and the most effective defense since the insanity plea.

The Titans put together a picturesque drive on the opening kickoff for a 7-0 lead, then sputtered. Tennessee moved the ball fairly well but wilted near the end zone.

Five times, the Titans moved inside the Baltimore 30, and they scored one touchdown. Al Del Greco missed three field goals, one that was blocked and returned 90 yards for a touchdown by Anthony Mitchell.

Minutes later, Ray Lewis intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 50 yards for another touchdown.

Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister, who said George folded like a baby after taking a tough hit in a November game, was asked if the Titans followed that script after the Lewis touchdown.

"I don't know if they folded like babies," McAlister said, "but some of the fight was taken out of them."

The last time Baltimore was in a Super Bowl was 30 years ago when the Colts defeated the Cowboys on Jim O'Brien field goals in Super Bowl V. The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 and the Ravens moved to Baltimore from Cleveland a dozen years later. The Ravens suffered through a 24-39-1 mark the past four seasons before this surprising post-season run.

"We have TVs, too. We know what people are saying about us. We're not supposed to beat the Jets, we're not supposed to beat the Broncos, we're not supposed to beat Tennessee," Lewis said. "That stuff is personal. For us to do what we've done this year, the records we've set, not getting respect is ridiculous."

So the Ravens are demanding respect.

Even if they have to shout at the top of their lungs to get it.

"When you go into the lion's den, you don't tippy-toe in. You carry a spear. You go in screaming like a Banshee and say, 'Where's the son of a b----?' " Billick said. "If you go in any other way, you're going to lose."

Aaaaaand, CUT!

That's a wrap.

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