Bear "D" Could Force Shift in Philosophy

When it comes to cracking the Chicago Bears defense, the Ravens might have to change their formula. Their offensive identity usually centers on the running game. But against the NFL's fourth-ranked run defense, the Ravens (2-3) might go away from their conservative approach at Soldier Field in an attempt to even their record this season.

"I wasn't kidding about that four-wide," coach Brian Billick said. "We may look like the run-and-shoot."

One problem is the Ravens could be without a starting receiver. Mark Clayton, the team's first-round pick, is questionable with sprained ankle.

That would mean Randy Hymes would start alongside Derrick Mason, who is eighth in the NFL in receptions.

"A lot of it has to do with us staying true to our offense," Mason said. "We got to get first yardage on first and second downs and get ourselves in third and short yardage situations instead of picking up 10 or 12 yards. That's when it gets hard. That's when that defense comes after you. They're good anyway but that's when they become really good. We want to get into a range where we can either run or throw and try to keep them on their heels."

The Ravens have struggled offensively, ranking second-to-last in scoring (12.6 points per game). They are the only team not to crack 20 points in a game this season. The Ravens rank in the bottom half in total offense (22nd), rushing (19th), passing (19th) and third-down efficiency (23rd).

"This is a game this week where the defense has to take over," said LB Hunter Hillenmeyer. "The Baltimore offense has struggled, there's no other way to put it than that and hopefully we come out and do what we're capable then not only will we be putting our offense in scoring position but we'll be shutting Baltimore down."

Chicago, meanwhile, ranks among the top nine defenses in 11 categories.

"It's been a growing process," said quarterback Anthony Wright, who will make his fifth start in place of the injured Kyle Boller. "This league is all about who can get better faster. If you look at our stats, we've been continually getting better as the season been progressing. I think we're going to be a lot better this week than what we were in Detroit. We're going to be a lot more focused and come out and try to put points on the board early."

Besides offense, the other concern is winning on the road. The Ravens have lost their past five trips, losing by an average of 15.4 points.

The Ravens' last win on the road came Nov. 14, 2004, when they won in New York.

"If you're playing well, you'll win on the road," Billick said. "If you're not playing well, you don't win on the road. You can look at what we eat, when we leave, who the flight attendants are, or what hotel we stay in. When you're well, that doesn't matter. When you're not playing well, that doesn't matter either. It's all about the preparation. Our preparation has been excellent. I'm going to rely on it."

Conversely the Bears will not change their run first philosophy against the Ravens and head coach Lovie Smith makes no attempt to hide the fact.

"That's our plan," Smith said. "It doesn't matter; teams know that's what we're going to do, we have to establish the run each game. That's where it starts for us so yeah they know we're going to run but we're going to do it."

Despite the lack of surprise in the game plan, Thomas Jones is still averaging ??? yards per carry and is seventh in the league with 502 yards rushing.

"Every week is a different challenge and I have respect for every defense I go against," Jones said. "But we know that if we go out there and do what we're capable of doing, then we should be all right."


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