The Baltimore Ravens already are drawing comparisons to their 2000 Super Bowl-winning team.
Having allowed the fewest points and yards of any team in the league, the Ravens try to notch the best start in team history when they visit the rival Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Baltimore’s championship team was led by one of the best defenses in league history, setting an NFL record by allowing only 165 points in 16 games. Just as he did that year, linebacker Ray Lewis is anchoring this defense, a unit which has allowed only six points through two games.
The Ravens (2-0) have given up a league-low 152.0 yards per game en route to their best start since 2000.
“I can understand people doing that. It’s fun to talk about,” Baltimore coach Brian Billick said of comparing the 2000 and 2006 defensive units. “But we’re not going to do it. This is a different group of people, different scheme, different idea. You always pull back on your heritage a little bit, but there’s no upside for us drawing too much into that.”
A victory Sunday would give the team its first 3-0 record in 11 years since owner Art Modell moved the former Cleveland Browns franchise to Baltimore.
McNair completed 16 of 33 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown and an interception last Sunday in a 28-6 win over the Oakland Raiders. Baltimore was limited to 264 yards of total offense.
“I wouldn’t attribute it to any one thing other than we never really got our rhythm,” Billick said. “We had the potential to do a great deal more offensively, given the way it was teed up for us. We didn’t deliver to the degree that we would need to against a better football team. We left ourselves a little vulnerable, and that’s what we’re addressing right now.”
McNair has thrown for a touchdown in each of the first two games, but has totaled only 324 passing yards and Baltimore’s pass offense ranks 28th in the NFL. The Ravens are ninth in the NFL with 241 rushing yards, including 148 from Jamal Lewis.
McNair could have an easier time against a Browns defense which allowed 321 passing yards in a 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Cleveland has a banged-up secondary. Daylon McCutcheon had not played since undergoing offseason knee surgery, and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Fellow cornerback Gary Baxter is suffering from a partially torn chest muscle that limits his ability to tackle, although he totaled 10 last Sunday.
“Taking some time off might be the best thing,” said Baxter, who missed 11 games last season with a torn chest muscle.
“I don’t know, man. If I’m not feeling right and not making plays, then I shouldn’t be out there. It’s frustrating to continually have the same problems over and over and not be able to do the things the Browns brought me in to do.”
Facing a Baltimore defense which has forced nine turnovers does not bode well for a Cleveland offense which has committed three in each game.
Charlie Frye has thrown two interceptions in back-to-back weeks and been sacked a total of five times, though he has completed 60 percent of his passes. He also has 54 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, but Reuben Droughns hasn’t provided much help in the running game with 59 yards on 25 attempts after rushing for 1,232 yards last year.
Droughns has been held to 96 yards on 35 carries in four games against the Ravens.
Jamal Lewis has failed to rush for 100 yards in four straight games against the Browns after combining for 500 in two games against them in 2003, including a league-record 295 on Sept. 14 that season.
The Ravens have lost their last two visits to Cleveland.