Originally created 01/14/02

Ravens 20, Dolphins 3



MIAMI -- Bruising defense, a grinding ground game and one pivotal pass put the Baltimore Ravens one victory closer to a possible return to the Super Bowl.

Baltimore scored on touchdown marches of 90 and 99 yards and allowed only 151 yards to beat the Miami Dolphins 20-3 in a wild-card playoff game Sunday.

The Ravens, who needed a win last week over Minnesota to make the playoffs, advanced to a second-round game Sunday at AFC Central champion Pittsburgh. Baltimore won at Pittsburgh 13-10 on Nov. 4, but lost 26-21 at home to the Steelers on Dec. 16.

It was a painfully familiar ending for the Dolphins (11-6). They're the only team to reach the playoffs each of the past five years, but they've made an early exit every time by a combined score of 164-16.

Miami still hasn't advanced to the AFC championship game since the 1992 season or the Super Bowl since the 1984 season.

The Ravens played the sort of smothering defense that took them to the NFL title last year. Miami's lone score came after Baltimore fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Dolphins managed just one first down in the opening 23 minutes.

The defending champions also showed surprising punch on offense, rushing for 227 yards and converting 10 of 16 third downs. Terry Allen carried 25 times for 109 yards and a score, and Jason Brookins added 65 yards in 10 attempts.

The Ravens went ahead to stay with a 17-play, 90-yard march that began midway through the first period and took 8:51. Allen scored on a 4-yard run, capping a drive that included seven first downs, four on third down.

A bold call helped the Ravens put the game away in the third period. Nursing a 7-3 lead and facing a third-and-1 at the Baltimore 10-yard line, Elvis Grbac fooled Miami by throwing deep to Travis Taylor, who beat Patrick Surtain for a 45-yard gain.

Eight plays later, again on third down, Taylor beat Surtain for a 4-yard touchdown catch. The two drives were the longest of the season for the Ravens.

The Ravens' defense slipped this season from its 2000 level, but was still ranked No. 2 in the NFL, and it was in fine form against Miami. Baltimore stuffed the Dolphins' feeble ground game, blanketed their receivers, harried Jay Fiedler and forced three turnovers.

Miami's Lamar Smith, who rushed for 158 yards last week against Buffalo, was limited to 6 on six carries. The Dolphins totaled 46 yards on the ground.

AFC sack leader Peter Boulware sacked Fiedler and forced a fumble that Sam Adams recovered. That led to Matt Stover's 35-yard field goal to make it 17-3. Stover added a 40-yarder with 2:01 left.

Miami's last gasp came with eight minutes to go. Fiedler hit James McKnight in stride with a 40-yard pass to the 3, but the ball bounced off the receiver and was intercepted by Duane Starks.