You expect things to be a bit chippy when the Ravens and Steelers square off.
When the Ravens face the Browns or the Bengals, or even another physical AFC opponent, you know that there's probably going to be some pushing and shoving after the whistle.
But I don't know that anyone expected things to be so hostile between the Ravens and Saints, who only face each other once every four years unless they happen to meet in the Super Bowl.
Yet, yesterday's matchup between those two teams had all the familiar pieces of a division rivalry which has been taking place for decades: personal fouls, scuffles, and plenty of trash talk.
Running back Ray Rice was flagged for flipping the ball at a Saints player, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh exchanged words facemask-to-facemask with Saints cornerback Leigh Torrence on multiple occasions, and maybe the main event came before a fourth quarter kickoff, when Saints safety Pierson Prioleau got a little too close to the Ravens' huddle for their liking.
Ravens players and coaches started yelling at Prioleau, who turned around and began jawing right back. Cornerback Cary Williams got in Prioleau's face, and - um - kindly told him to take a few steps away from the Ravens' huddle.
"He was over there, much like other guys do, but they weren't over as close as he was," Williams said. "It just seemed real disrespectful, what he was saying to our coach when he told him to get back. It seemed like the ref just ignored it, so I just stood over there in front of him and let him know, 'Hey, we're in our huddle. We don't want no problems with you, but if you want to bring a problem, we could bring that issue to you.' That's all it was."
The chippy atmosphere surrounding the game might have surprised those watching from off field level, but the players said they expected things to be this intense.
"Any time you get late in the year, and you have two good teams fighting for playoff position, it going to go like that," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "When you have two bulldogs fighting in the ring, they're going to go at it. It was a chippy game, that's how we like it."
While the Saints seemed to believe that the Ravens did much of the instigating yesterday (New Orleans safety Darren Sharper said the Ravens "are a team that talks. They do more talking than most of the teams in the league."), the Ravens insist that they were merely countering what the Saints brought at them.
Williams says that the Saints even started talking some trash before they landed in Baltimore.
"They were talking all week in the paper about how they were going to out-physical us and all this other stuff," Williams said. "But, games are never won in the newspaper. You've got to come between the white lines and play under the lights, and all that stuff. It was just two competitors going through it. That's all it was."
While Rice was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for flipping the ball at a Saints player, the Ravens were able to avoid any other emotional penalties, which pleased head coach John Harbaugh.
"Our guys didn't do a lot of talking. But let me tell you what, we did some responding," Harbaugh said. "[The Saints] have a bully mindset. They want to push teams around. They want to intimidate you. They want to get out to a lead quick, and our team is not going to have that. We're just not. I'm proud of the way we responded, and I thought we did it with composure and poise. I'm proud of our guys for that."