MIAMI (Ticker) -- The defense led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title and will determine whether they defend it.
Following a familiar playoff formula, Ray Lewis led a defense that yielded just nine first downs and the Ravens steamrolled for 226 rushing yards in a 20-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the AFC wild card round.
The Ravens' defense allowed just one touchdown and 16 points last season in winning three playoff games and Super Bowl XXXV.
"We played a great game, ran the ball well and played great defense," Lewis said. "Our defense took us to the Super Bowl last year and the world saw what we did tonight. We played great ball all around the table."
On Sunday, Baltimore (11-6) started its postseason run with another dominant performance. The Dolphins scored their only points on a 33-yard field goal by Olindo Mare 2:14 into the game after Jermaine Lewis fumbled the opening kickoff and linebacker Tommy Hendricks recovered at the Baltimore 24.
The Ravens forced three turnovers, sacked Jay Fiedler three times and held Miami (11-6) to 151 total yards.
With Lewis behind tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa, the Ravens clogged the middle and Miami quickly abandoned the run. Rookie Travis Minor had just 14 yards on five carries and Lamar Smith was held to six yards on six carries. Fiedler was Miami's leading rusher with 16 yards on three scrambles.
"We did all the right things," said Siragusa, who already has announced his retirement. "We ran the ball and stopped the run. It feels an awful lot like last year. The offense is running the ball and allowing the defense to go out there fresh."
Meanwhile, the Ravens' offensive front pushed the Dolphins off the line of scrimmage, opening holes for Terry Allen, Jason Brookins and Moe Williams. Perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden was especially dominant, using his 80-pound advantage to manhandle defensive end Jason Taylor.
"It was smashmouth football today, very old school," Ogden said. "We had the Super Bowl pride on our mind today and we wanted to come out and make a statement."
The Ravens rushed 50 times, controlled the ball for nearly 38 minutes and put together touchdown drives of 90 and 99 yards.
Allen led the rushing attack with 109 yards on 25 carries, including a four-yard touchdown, and Brookins produced 65 yards on 10 carries against a defense that ranked 17th against the run.
"Our offensive line got into a rhythm," Allen said. "We knew it would be hard for them to stop our running game."
"That was surprising today, the way they ran the ball on us," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They blocked us and we didn't get them on the ground. We are obviously a much better team than the way we played tonight."
Last year, Baltimore's offense revolved around the running of workhorse Jamal Lewis, who gained 1,364 yards in the regular season and 338 yards in the playoffs. But he suffered a torn ACL in training camp, forcing the Ravens to sign the 33-year-old Allen to help fill the void.
Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas had 22 tackles for Miami (11-6), but was visibly hampered by a torn shoulder muscle and made many of his stops after substantial gains.
With an overpowering running game, Ravens coach Brian Billick reverted to his postseason style of last year, when former quarterback Trent Dilfer directed a low-risk offense that avoided turnovers and did not undercut the defense with poor field position.
Billick tended to take more chances with quarterback Elvis Grbac this season, but it often resulted in turnovers. On Sunday, Grbac completed 12-of-18 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions or fumbles.
"Elvis executed the game plan beautifully," Billick said. "He's really getting the feel of the flow of this offense. I have a lot of faith in him."
Grbac's best throw of the day came when he faded back near his own end zone on 3rd-and-1 and lofted a 45-yard pass down the right sideline to Travis Taylor, who beat cornerback Patrick Surtain on a fly pattern.
"Miami was expecting us to just run the ball and we caught them off guard," Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "Travis made a great move to get outside, the defense was coming up and he was able to get 1-on-1 coverage. They gambled and we went over the top."
That play highlighted a 99-yard drive that fittingly was capped by Travis Taylor, who caught a four-yard touchdown toss over Surtain to give Baltimore a 14-3 lead with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
"It was real sweet," Travis Taylor said. "It was my first playoff game because I missed the playoffs last year, so this is sweet."
Matt Stover kicked field goals of 35 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter for Baltimore.
The Ravens will play AFC Central rival Pittsburgh (13-3) next weekend in the divisional playoff. They need to win two more road games to return to the Super Bowl.
Billick remains unbeaten in the playoffs at 5-0. Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins is the last coach to win his first six postseason games en route to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 1982-83.
The only team to make the playoffs each of the last five years, Miami endured another rude exit and has been outscored, 164-20, in its last five postseason losses.
Maligned for his lack of arm strength, Fiedler had little chance against Baltimore with no running attack. He completed 15-of-28 passes for 122 yards with an interception.
"You have to earn everything you get against a defense like this, and we just came up short," Fiedler said. "We just missed making a couple of big plays, but we had some chances."
One of those chances came in the fourth quarter, when Fiedler lofted a 40-yard pass to James McKnight, who was open inside the Baltimore 5. But McKnight stumbled and the ball caromed off his shoulder and into the hands of cornerback Duane Starks, who returned the interception 26 yards to the Baltimore 28 with 8:34 left.
The Ravens drove 50 yards and held the ball for more than 6 1/2 minutes before Stover capped the scoring with a 40-yard field goal.