They were determined to make amends for an embarrassing performance one week earlier, and harassing their former teammate was merely a means to that end.
Baltimore forced Dilfer into three turnovers and sacked him four times Sunday, key ingredients in a 16-3 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Todd Heap scored the only touchdown for the Ravens (2-3), who were off to the worst start in franchise history after being penalized 21 times last week in a 35-17 defeat at Detroit.
“It doesn’t matter who was at quarterback or what team you were playing, we needed to get a win here today,” said Baltimore linebacker Tommy Polley, who had 1 1/2 sacks. “Everybody was doubting us, but we stuck together as a team all week.”
Against the Lions, the Ravens received several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed were ejected for shoving officials. The entire defense played with much more composure against the Browns, who didn’t get past the Baltimore 47 in the decisive first half.
“We played smarter, and we played for each other,” cornerback Samari Rolle said.
Dilfer led the Ravens to a lopsided win in the 2001 Super Bowl, but was released after the season when Baltimore signed Elvis Grbac. Neither Dilfer or the Ravens have fared well since parting ways, and this was a chance for the quarterback to show his former teammates—and coach Brian Billick—what they’re missing.
Nothing went according to plan.
Back in Baltimore as a starter for the first time since his departure, Dilfer struggled from the outset. He fumbled a snap on Cleveland’s first offensive play, setting up Heap’s touchdown, and lost another fumble that led to a field goal.
“I didn’t play well. We didn’t play well on offense,” Dilfer said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself because I felt like I had to play my best game in order to beat these guys. The atmosphere wasn’t that big a deal; I’ve played in a lot of hostile environments.”
Dilfer practiced against Lewis during the 2000 season, but Sunday he was forced to go up against the standout linebacker under vastly different circumstances. Lewis won the battle: He recovered Dilfer’s first fumble, had an interception and was credited with five tackles.
Dilfer finished 16-for-30 for 147 yards, and the Browns (2-3) failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season.
“They’re good. They rush everybody, they hit you,” Dilfer said.
Cleveland managed only four first downs and 66 yards in offense in the first half and trailed 16-0 at the break. The Browns’ lone points came on a 24-yard field goal by Phil Dawson midway through the third quarter.
“We took a step back today,” first-year coach Romeo Crennel said. “Now we have to go back to the drawing board, start over and try to dig ourselves out of a hole.”
Baltimore got its initial first-quarter touchdown of the season after Lewis recovered Dilfer’s fumble on the Cleveland 20. Five plays later, Wright threw a 3-yarder to Heap, marking the first time this season the Ravens scored a touchdown off a turnover.
“When we get a lead like that of 10 points, the defense can sit back and play the way they want to play,” Heap said. “When they’re able to do that, they’re a lot more dangerous.”
On Baltimore’s next possession, a career-best 52-yard run by Taylor preceded a 27-yard field goal to make it 13-0.
Late in the half, after Gary Baxter intercepted a deflected pass to ruin a Baltimore drive that had consumed nearly six minutes, Dilfer fumbled while being sacked by Suggs. Adalius Thomas recovered on the Cleveland 36 to set up a field goal by Stover on the final play of the half.
Baltimore came in with a minus-9 turnover differential, but on this afternoon, the Ravens won the turnover battle—and the game.
Reed, Baltimore WR Mark Clayton and FB Ovie Mughelli left with ankle sprains. … Cleveland’s LB Nick Speegle also left with an ankle injury. … Umpire Butch Hannah sprained a knee ligament in a collision with Heap. He will be out 3 to 4 weeks.