BALTIMORE, Dec. 31 -- Two touchdown runs by Jamal Lewis and a typical effort from one of the best defensive units in the history of pro football carried Baltimore to a 21-3 conquest of the Denver Broncos Sunday in the first playoff game ever for the Ravens.
With winds gusting to more than 30 miles an hour and with a chill factor of 11 degrees, the Baltimore defense smothered the second-ranked offense in the NFL and set up a divisional round matchup against the top-seeded Tennessee Titans.
In the two years Tennessee's Adelphia Coliseum has been open, the only visiting team to win there has been Baltimore. The Titans and Ravens will meet next Sunday at 12:30 p.m. EST.
The Ravens (13-4) set an NFL record for a 16-game season this year by limiting opponents to 165 points. With Gus Frerotte quarterbacking the Broncos in place of the injured Brian Griese, Denver seldom threatened to pick up a first down -- much less a touchdown.
Denver converted just three of 15 third-down plays, gained 42 yards on the ground and averaged a mere 2.8 yards on their 67 snaps. Baltimore recorded four sacks for 31 yards in losses.
"I believe they have the best offense in the NFL, balanced run, pass, the entire dynamic," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "So what does that say about our defense? I believe it's the best."
The Broncos cross midfield only once, that coming in the second period when they marched from their own 20 to the Baltimore 12 before Jason Elam came on to kick a 31-yard field goal.
"If they keep winning, their defense will be compared as one of the best of all time," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "But it's all predicated on winning. When you win Super Bowls, I think you always put those defenses in an elite class. If Baltimore can do that, I think this defense will be considered one of the best of all time."
Baltimore fared only a little better on offense than did Denver, but Lewis gained 113 yards on 31 carries and the Ravens benefited from one very fortunate bounce of the ball to come up with a long-range touchdown from Shannon Sharpe.
Lewis scored on a two-yard run at the end of a 75-yard drive that bridged the first and second periods to give the Ravens the lead and, after Denver reduced its deficit to 7-3, Sharpe came up with his big play to put the Broncos in a hole from which they could not escape.
The kickoff following Elam's field goal was returned to the Baltimore 42 and from there, Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer threw a pass into the flat intended for Lewis.
The ball ricocheted off Lewis and also bounced off Denver's Terrell Buckley. Eventually, it landed in the hands of Sharpe, who played for 10 years with the Broncos and who was facing his former team for the first time.
Sharpe headed down the sideline, eluded a would-be tackle from Al Wilson and turned the play into a 58-yard touchdown.
"I was really a little nervous today," Sharpe said. "I wanted to do well and help my team win. I don't really think (the Broncos) gave up on me. (Denver coach) Mike (Shanahan) knew I could still play, but he didn't think I could play at the level that could justify that kind of money."
Baltimore's other score came late in the third period when Lewis plowed into the line, ran over Wilson, dodged defensive back Billy Jenkins and went 27 yards for a touchdown.
Sunday's victory was the crowning achievement for a franchise that was mired in controversy when it was uprooted from its home in Cleveland by owner Art Modell and moved to Baltimore -- where a new stadium awaited.
The Ravens failed to produce a winning record in any of their first four seasons in Baltimore, but a defense led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis turned the team around. That defense helped the team survive a bizarre October, during which the Ravens played five games without playing a touchdown. And yet the Ravens won two of those games.
Dilfer, who left the game briefly in the second half with what was initially diagnosed as a mild concussion, completed nine of 14 passes for 130 yards while Frerotte was good on 13 of 28 for 123. Frerotte took a blow to the chin in the second half and left the game for a series.
With the outcome no longer in doubt, Frerotte was eventually replaced by rookie Jarious Jackson.