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Wednesday - 1/17/2001

By Rachael Brandon

The Baltimore Ravens have made believers out of the Denver Broncos, the Tennessee Titans and the Oakland Raiders this postseason. Just in case the New York Giants are still skeptical, this is what they're up against at the Super Bowl. At the very least, they shouldn't count on scoring 41 points as they did in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings. Here's the Ravens defense by the numbers: * NO RUSH: In three playoff games, the Ravens have allowed 192 yards rushing. Mike Anderson, the Offensive Rookie of the Year, gained 40 yards. Tyrone Wheatley got seven yards on 12 carries. Only Eddie George, who had two other cracks at the Ravens this season, had a respectable game with 91 yards.

Oakland and Denver had the No. 1 and No. 2 rushing offenses in the league during the regular season. A lot of good that did them. "I think it speaks for itself," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We held every back we've played in the last 35 games to less than 100 yards rushing. We didn't allow 1,000 yards rushing all season.

GET TO THE POINT: Baltimore has given up 16 total points - one touchdown and three field goals - in 180 minutes of playoff games. By comparison, the Minnesota Vikings gave up 17 points in 15 minutes against the Giants. How confident are the Ravens? Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis asked the Baltimore offense to score seven points against the Raiders.

"I said, 'Marvin, how many points do you need?' " tight end Shannon Sharpe related. "He said, 'Seven.' I said, 'You need seven points in an AFC Championship, seven points against the Raiders?' He said, 'That's all we need.' "

THIRD AND A LONG SHOT: Brad Maynard, stay loose. You'll be needed after punting just once against the Vikings. Baltimore's opponents converted only 10 of 46 third-down attempts in the past three games. The Raiders were a paltry two-of-14.

IN THE BAG: The Ravens have posted 10 quarterback sacks in their three games, for a total loss of 66 yards. Against the Raiders, Michael McCrary set the tone for the game by sacking Rich Gannon on third-and-eight for a loss of nine yards, forcing Oakland to punt from deep in their own territory on their opening drive.

"They are outstanding," said Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who found out the hard way. "They have a great pass rush with their front four, with a lot of stunts. They force you to check the ball down at times, and when you
do, there are guys like Ray Lewis and (Jamie) Sharper to rattle you."

CATCHING ON: The Ravens have six postseason interceptions, but more impressive is that they've come at the hands of four different defenders: Ray Lewis and cornerback Duane Starks have two each, while Sharper and
cornerback Robert Bailey have one each.

SEEING RED: Opponents might be able to get inside the red zone against the Ravens, but finding the end zone is another story. Baltimore has allowed a team inside its 20 seven times during the playoffs, but has given up just one touchdown, to the Titans. That's a 14.3 percent success rate, lowest of any playoff team. The Ravens made a most impressive stand against the Raiders in the third quarter Sunday. An interception by Johnnie Harris gave Oakland the ball at the Ravens 39. Five plays later, the Raiders had first-and-goal at the two-yard-line. Wheatley was tackled for a loss, Gannon was sacked and then Randy Jordan dropped a Gannon pass. The Raiders had to kick a field goal. "If you have the No. 1 defense of all time, would you let them in?" linebacker Cornell Brown said. "Don't no one get into the end zone on the greatest. People don't score. I don't care if there's a half inch and they've got four shots, they're not getting into our end zone. That's our mentality."