Denver's 'D' dominant in win over Ravens

DENVER (Oct. 9, 2006) -- If being disrespected means Champ Bailey gets more lob passes thrown his way in the end zone, then the Denver Broncos won't complain anymore about their dominant defense being dissed.

The Broncos (3-1) intercepted three of Steve McNair 's passes -- including a leaping end-zone pick by Bailey just before halftime -- to hand the Ravens (4-1) their first loss with a 13-3 win.

Bailey was as surprised as anyone that McNair went after him with a lob pass to wide receiver Clarence Moore in the right corner.

"A little," Bailey said with a smile. "And they paid for it."

All Baltimore coach Brian Billick had to say about the ill-advised call that loomed so large on a cold and rainy night was: "That play was one of the options we had and it didn't turn out for us."

Denver defensive coordinator Larry Coyer was glad to see somebody finally challenge his perennial Pro Bowl cornerback: "I was glad to see them throw one at him. That'll work for me, yeah. Yeah. Yeah."

A cold rain and two stingy defenses turned the Baltimore-Denver showdown into a kicking competition for much of the night, and Jason Elam bested Matt Stover with two long field goals.

But with a 6-3 lead and 1:55 left in the game, Denver put the kick-fest to rest. Deep in Ravens territory, Denver took a chance at the end zone, icing the game on Jake Plummer 's 4-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith. It was Smith's first touchdown this season and also the first TD the Ravens have surrendered in a second half this year.

"We stuck together tonight," Plummer said. "It was ugly, ugly for a while, but in the end we came and put together some drives when it counted."

The touchdown was set up by Darrent Williams ' interception at midfield with 6:47 left and Tatum Bell 's 12-yard gain on third-and-10 from the 17 in which he carried linebacker Ray Lewis for the final 5 yards.

"It wasn't a big deal," Bell said, "but it was a big deal because it was Ray."

Elam connected from 43 and 44 yards, the second one breaking a 3-3 tie with eight minutes remaining and capping a drive that was set up by Sam Koch's 10-yard punt.

Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce, who was quiet all week about his return to Denver -- which dumped him and his $10 million salary in the offseason -- was even quieter Monday night, assisting on just one tackle.

"The loss hurts, but I don't really care who it is against," Pryce said. "They are just another football team. The thing is, they are a great football team. They always have been, they were before I got there and they are now that I'm gone."

The teams were tied 3-3 at halftime, and the rain only got heavier during a scoreless third quarter in which the Ravens avoided a big momentum-shifter when center Mike Flynn smothered McNair's fumble at the Baltimore 12.

Flynn saved the touchdown after McNair's third interception, by Domonique Foxworth in the final minute while safety John Lynch (neck) was on the sideline.

The Ravens and the rain combined to limit Denver to 9 yards of offense in the first quarter, tying a franchise low since Mike Shanahan became the Broncos coach in 1995.

The Broncos turned the ball over on their first two possessions.

Denver's first turnover resulted in a 24-yard field goal by Stover that gave Baltimore a 3-0 lead. It followed cornerback Chris McAlister 's nifty tightrope walk along the right sideline after he gathered the loose ball that Terrell Suggs punched out of Bell's hands.

Plummer, wearing a glove on his throwing hand to get a better grip, wildly overthrew Walker on the Broncos' next possession and cornerback Samari Rolle hauled in the long pass at the Baltimore 34.

The Broncos tied it at 3 on Elam's 43-yarder following Williams' 33-yard punt return to the Baltimore 42. It was the second big return by Williams, who ranked dead last in the NFL going into the game with an average of less than a yard per punt return.

The Ravens were driving for the go-ahead score just before halftime when Bailey intercepted McNair's lob pass with 30 seconds left.

"It's always the difference in the game: that red zone," Shanahan said. "What were they, one for two? ... Kept them from getting a field goal, kept them from getting a touchdown. Obviously, that was a big play at the time."

It was a bit of instant redemption for Bailey, who had just been burned for a 26-yard gain on third-and-7 when he appeared to bite on a fake by McNair and Derrick Mason zipped past him and hauled in the pass along the right sideline. Safety Nick Ferguson saved the touchdown by knocking Mason out of bounds at the 11.

"We heard all the hype about them," Bailey said. "We've got a good defense, too, and I think we proved that tonight."

Notes:

Plummer is 65-64 as a starter in the regular season and is above .500 for the first time in his 10-year career. ... Williams had two more big returns nullified by holding calls on Foxworth and Curome Cox.

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