BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Ravens began the afternoon with a
salute to owner Art Modell. Three hours later, they marked their
first trip to the playoffs with a more traditional ceremony: the
Trent Dilfer threw two touchdown passes, and the Ravens took
advantage of five turnovers to beat the bumbling San Diego Chargers
24-3 Sunday, clinching a spot in the postseason for the first time
since Modell moved the team from Cleveland in 1996.
"At the beginning of the year we stood up and said, 'Anything
less than the playoffs would be unsuccessful,' " coach Brian
Billick said. "To stand up and be accountable that way and to live
up to what you said you were going to do is sometimes undervalued.
"I'm happy for the organization. I'm happy for the city of
Baltimore," said Billick, who received his first celebratory
drenching as a head coach during the two-minute warning.
It was a team-record fifth straight win for the Ravens (10-4),
who will probably begin the postseason at home in a wild-card game.
It would be the first NFL playoff game involving Baltimore since
the Colts qualified in 1977.
"We're not going to the playoffs just to play one game,"
declared defensive end Rob Burnett. "We're in the playoffs, but
right now we have to keep the hammer down and stay focused."
|Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf was sacked twice and held to 78 yards passing Sunday in a loss to the Ravens.|
San Diego (1-13) absorbed its franchise-record 13th loss. Ryan
Leaf was 9-for-23 for 78 yards with one interception and a lost
"It's real frustrating for us, disappointing. Turnovers were
the difference," Leaf said. "...It's a struggle of a season for
Before Sunday's game, Modell was honored for his 40 years as an
NFL owner. Instead of introducing the offense or defense, the
Ravens had Modell walk onto the field accompanied by team captains
Shannon Sharpe and Ray Lewis.
"I wouldn't consider it under any circumstances unless we were
in the playoff hunt," Modell said beforehand.
That quest is over. Modell now has a team in the playoffs for
the first time since the Cleveland Browns made it in 1994. Before
this year, the Ravens never had a winning season.
"I'm very happy for the fans. This is a football town starved
for success," said Dilfer, playing his first season with
Baltimore. "Getting to the playoffs is huge."
Billick, who forbid his players from talking about the playoffs
in recent weeks, cheerily lifted the ban.
"One word, two syllables: Playoffs," Sharpe laughed. "It
feels real good."
Baltimore went up 17-3 when Jamal Lewis scored from the 1 after
the Ravens recovered a fumble by Terrell Fletcher at the San Diego
3. Dilfer then threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley
after the Chargers botched a punt.
"We know they have a great defense and we didn't want to give
their offense good field position," San Diego coach Mike Riley
said. "We (gave up) 21 points worth today, and it's hard to make
up that ground."
If there was one drawback for the Ravens, it was they failed to
record their fifth shutout. A second-quarter field goal by the
Chargers ruined Baltimore's bid to match the 1976 Pittsburgh
Steelers' modern-day record of five shutouts in a season.
"We want the shutout, but we can't get caught up in that. We
need to win our last two games," safety Rod Woodson said.
The Chargers and Ravens each had three turnovers in a sloppy
first half that ended with Baltimore up 10-3 despite allowing only
52 yards on 25 plays.
Baltimore held the ball for 17 plays and more than nine minutes
on its opening series before Matt Stover kicked a 32-yard field
San Diego's third giveaway, a fumble by Leaf at the San Diego
46, was disastrous for the Chargers. Qadry Ismail was ruled out of
bounds on a catch in the end zone, but Baltimore appealed the call
and a replay reversal netted the Ravens a 28-yard touchdown and a
Rodney Harrison's second interception and an 11-yard pass from
Leaf to Freddie Jones produced a 47-yard field goal by John Carney
late in the half.
||TOM DONAHOE'S BREAKDOWN
Question on the Chargers: Did the rumors of Mike Riley's departure
affect the Chargers?
Donahoe: The rumors of Mike Riley's departure probably had little if
any effect on the Chargers today. Simply put, they were soundly defeated by
a quality team. The Chargers have struggled all season running the football
and today was no different. The Ravens' potent defense made it difficult for
the Chargers to much of anything offensively. It will be interesting to see
what happens in San Diego at the end of the season. There have been rumors
that they will look for a new general manager, but key decisions must also
be made regarding coach Riley and quarterback Ryan
Question on the Ravens: What happened to the Ravens' offense in the
Donahoe: The Ravens' offense struggled in the first half mainly due
to turnovers. Trent
Dilfer threw two interceptions and fumbled after a sack, which prevented
Baltimore from getting offensive continuity early. In the second half,
Dilfer and the Ravens settled down. Dilfer has been a pleasant surprise
since he took over the starting job from Tony
Banks, but sometimes he reverts to his old self -- not making good
decisions and throwing the ball up for grabs. Dilfer's consistency will be a
key for the Ravens in the playoffs and may well determine how far they go.
Tom Donahoe, ESPN.com's NFL analyst, was formerly the Steelers' director
of football operations.
Chargers DE Adrian Dingle sprained his left knee in the
first quarter and did not return. ... Lewis has four touchdowns in
his last four games. ... It was the third two-interception game of
Harrison's career. ... San Diego LB Deon Humphrey bruised his
shoulder and missed most of the second half. ... The Chargers have
15 turnovers in their last three games.
San Diego Clubhouse
Shannon Sharpe Official Site