SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Although Ed Reed could count the Baltimore defense’s mistakes on one hand after his famed unit carried the Ravens to another win, the Pro Bowl safety still had two complaints.
“They only got two long plays, but we’ve got to take away those two plays,” Reed said with a grimace. “Against a good team, those two plays will cost us more than they did today.”
That says it all about the Ravens’ standards—and their regard for the struggling San Francisco 49ers as well.
Reed, Ray Lewis and their crew suffocated San Francisco on all but a few plays, and Matt Stover covered for Baltimore’s near-equal offensive ineptitude with three field goals in the Ravens’ 9-7 victory Sunday.
Just a few days after Lewis demanded more ferocity and less trickery, the Baltimore defense shouldered the offense in another trademark performance. The Ravens (3-2) didn’t get in the end zone despite outgaining San Francisco 315-163, yet still won with the franchise’s lowest points total in a victory since the former Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996.
“We’re built a certain way as a team, and all we said was we won’t lose this game,” Lewis said. “If we get the lead, we won’t lose this game. I just think it shows the character of our team.”
Except for an inexplicable two-play sequence when San Francisco completed two long passes for 65 yards and its only score, the Baltimore defense applied the soundest beating yet to the 49ers (2-3), who lost their third straight while failing to gain 200 yards for the fourth time in five games.
“We’re a team that can play base defense and smack teams around,” linebacker Bart Scott said. “We were disappointed, though. We want to pitch shutouts, especially against a team that shouldn’t have got a first down against us.”
Though the 49ers’ offense remained in its season-long funk with Trent Dilfer replacing injured Alex Smith, San Francisco made a 40-yard drive in the closing minutes to set up Joe Nedney’s 52-yard field goal attempt with 2:37 left. The veteran kicker pulled it wide right, and Baltimore ran out the clock.
Dilfer, facing the team he led to its only Super Bowl triumph in January 2001, was 12-of-19 for 126 yards in his starting debut with the Niners.
“I knew it would be hard,” Dilfer said. “Nobody admires the mentality of defense they play more than I do. It is second to none. There’s an attitude there, a belief system, a set of core values defensively that makes it very difficult to play good offensive football against them.”
Baltimore played without left tackle Jonathan Ogden, tight end Todd Heap and cornerback Samari Rolle, then lost backup left tackle Adam Terry and center Mike Flynn to injuries. By the fourth quarter, four-fifths of Baltimore’s line either was injured or playing out of position, and it showed.
Steve McNair was 29-of-43 for 214 yards. Derrick Mason had 11 quiet catches for 85 yards, while Willis McGahee rushed for 88 yards behind the patchwork offensive line and caught seven passes for 48 more.
Coach Brian Billick described his offense’s effort as “survival. Not perfect by any stretch, but … given the guys we had to throw in there, we grew a little bit today.”
Stover, who missed two field goals in last week’s loss to Cleveland, hit two in the final 2:44 before halftime. He added another early in the third quarter after Reed intercepted Dilfer’s overthrow.
San Francisco coach Mike Nolan was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator for three years before taking over the 49ers in 2005. His former players showed him what’s missing in his new offense. With Smith, tight end Vernon Davis and left tackle Jonas Jennings sitting out for San Francisco, Frank Gore had another tough game, rushing for just 52 yards.
“I don’t know exactly what the issues are on offense, but we have a lot of work to do,” Nolan said. “If there’s anything I know about Baltimore, I knew we were going to play that kind of game. It was a put-you-to-sleep kind of game sometimes, but I was trying to give us a chance to win.”
Baltimore led 6-0 after a snoozeworthy first half in which San Francisco’s offense managed one first down and 38 total yards, including zero net yards passing.
San Francisco had 56 total yards midway through the third quarter before Dilfer absorbed a brutal hit from Gerome Sapp to get a 42-yard pass to Bryan Gilmore. He then hit Arnaz Battle on a post route for a 23-yard touchdown, cutting Baltimore’s lead to two points with 6:14 left in the period.
But neither team scored again.
Dilfer spoke with Billick before the game to put to rest the quarterback’s years of bad feelings against the coach who ushered him out of Baltimore after the championship season. “I really appreciate him reaching out that way,” Billick said. … Smith threw a few pregame passes, then watched the game without a sling on his separated right shoulder.