No room to roam
Ravens dominate Broncos' normally potent running game
Denver thought it could run the ball against Baltimore, a miscalculation that resulted in a 21-3 loss in Sunday's AFC wild-card playoff. It marked the 34th consecutive game the Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher.
Anderson, the rookie who excelled in place of injured Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary, had 1,500 yards, six 100-yard games and 15 touchdowns in the regular season.
He left PSINet Stadium with 40 yards on 15 carries and a new appreciation for a Ravens defense that allowed an NFL-record 165 points during the regular season.
"On tape, you see a group of guys who play really hard, hustle, move to the football. ... When you play them, you see that they don't stop," Anderson said. "They try to take that fight right out of you from the get-go. They try to take the willpower out of you."
The Ravens prevented Denver from establishing the run and Anderson from getting any offensive momentum. Head coach Mike Shanahan said that was crucial in allowing quarterback Gus Frerotte -- who started in place of banged-up Brian Griese -- time to utilize the Broncos' pair of 100-catch receivers, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.
"We tried to keep them at least in a scenario where they have to respect the run so they couldn't tee off and go right after the quarterback," Shanahan said. "Once you put this football team in a one-dimensional game, against this defense, you're in for a long day."
Denver, the NFL's second-best offensive team, was intercepted on its first series, when Frerotte's pass to McCaffrey was tipped into the arms of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
And it only got worse from there, as the Broncos were limited to 177 offensive yards.
"No doubt about it, they're very good," Frerotte said. "But we caused our own problems today."
The Broncos got into Baltimore territory only once, on a 12-play, 78-yard drive that produced their only points of the game, Jason Elam's 31-yard field goal in the second quarter.
In the second half, four of the Broncos' first five series lasted only three offensive plays and a punt. Anderson was a non-factor, either being stopped by the Ravens' massive tackles, Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa, or crunched by Baltimore's elite linebacking corps, often in the one-on-one situations where he normally excels.
"They rely on you not being technically sound. We were technically sound," Adams said. "Everyone was in their gaps. We played aggressive and physical ball. We were able to plug those holes where he normally is hitting those gaps. [Anderson] is a good running back, and we had to be on our best game."
That's not the kind of defense Broncos offensive tackle Tony Jones remembers from his season in Baltimore. But that was 1996, the first year after the franchise moved from Cleveland, when the Ravens defense was full of holes, not promise.
"They've got four tough guys up front, and the linebackers always seem to be flying around," Jones said. "They're a lot different now."
Are the Ravens the best defense the Broncos have seen this season?
"You're always compared when you win championships," said Shanahan, who coached the Broncos to Super Bowl victories after the 1997 and 1998 seasons. "If this defense, if this team, can keep on going and win, it will be compared as one of the best, if not the best.
"But I think it's all predicated on winning. When you win Super Bowls, you always put those defenses in an elite class."