Broncos v. Ravens Game Snapshot

QB Steve McNair isn't putting up monster numbers in his first season with the Baltimore Ravens, but he has brought an air of confidence to the huddle that has allowed the team to come from behind to win the past two games.Check out our complete preview of the Denver Broncos Monday Night Football game against the Ravens.

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Baltimore Ravens (4-0) at Denver Broncos (2-1)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF:
Monday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/09/06
SURFACE: Grass
WEATHER: Current weather and forecast
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 7th meeting. The Ravens lead the series, 4-2. The Ravens had their four-game winning streak over the Broncos ended last season. Denver beat the visiting Ravens, 12-10, last December. Then-starting quarterback Kyle Boller turned the ball over three times, including twice in the red zone. "We made enough errors to lose 10 games," coach Brian Billick said after that game.
2006 RANKINGS: Ravens: offense 28th (23rd rush, 27th pass); defense 2nd (1st rush, 4th pass). Broncos: offense 15th (4th rush, 26th pass); defense 17th (18th rush, 19th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Steve McNair isn't putting up monster numbers in his first season with the Ravens, but he has brought an air of confidence to the huddle that has allowed the team to come from behind to win the past two games. Still, Baltimore is concerned about its running game, especially with RB Jamal Lewis getting stopped in several key short-yardage situations. WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap are McNair's favorite targets, but the Broncos also have to be wary of WR Mark Clayton, who has made several clutch receptions to keep drives alive. Denver's offense is heavily reliant on the running game led by RB Tatum Bell, but it won't be easy against a Baltimore defense allowing just 63.2 rushing yards per game. For the Broncos to have success in the air, Bell has to force the Ravens to stuff the box and allow QB Jake Plummer to feed off the play-action pass.

FAST FACTS: Ravens: Defense has allowed just three second-half points this season. ... MLB Ray Lewis has averaged 16.7 tackles in the past three meetings. ... 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. Broncos: A win would tie coach Mike Shanahan for third-place all-time with 125 victories through 200 regular-season games. ... Are 6-1 (.857) in past seven games decided by three points or less.

PREDICTION: Broncos 20-16

PERSONNEL NEWS:
Ravens:

--DE Terrell Suggs practiced and should start despite being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. He didn't practice all last week and still played.

--LB Adalius Thomas practiced and should start despite being listed as questionable with a neck injury.

--TE Daniel Wilcox practiced and should be able to play despite being listed as questionable with a thigh injury. He has caught two touchdown passes in four games this season.

--TE Todd Heap is showing that he's fully recovered from two surgeries in the 2005 offseason. Heap leads all tight ends in receptions (34), yards (321) and touchdowns (six) since Dec. 18, 2005.

--RB Jamal Lewis should receive 25 carries this week as the Ravens have talked about being more committed to the run. He has been held under 20 carries in three of four games this season.

Broncos:
--DE Courtney Brown (knee) didn't participate at all in practice Thursday after doing some drills Wednesday. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan refused to call it a setback, but Brown is doubtful for this week's game, and his return has not been set.

--DE Kenard Lang will continue to fill in for DE Courtney Brown (knee) while he is out. Lang has played well and was a smart offseason acquisition by Denver behind the injury-prone Brown.

--RB Tatum Bell might not match up very well with Baltimore's defense. Bell's strength is his speed -- he's one of the best in the NFL at attacking the perimeter. The Ravens defense is very fast, so there probably won't be many outside lanes for the Broncos.

--LB Ian Gold leads the Broncos in tackles this season. He is being kept on the weak side full time and has made many plays. He has nine more tackles than anyone else on the team.

--WR Quincy Morgan should be more comfortable with the Broncos' special teams scheme. He has been with the team two weeks, having signed before the game at New England. The Broncos need Morgan to give their special teams a spark as a kickoff returner.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Ravens:

Ravens linebacker Bart Scott has become the NFL's breakthrough defensive player of the season, showing great athleticism, instincts and explosion to make some of the most impressive game-changing plays.

He's a major reason why the defense is ranked No. 2 in the NFL. He's a major reason why the Ravens are 4-0.

Two weeks ago in Cleveland, Scott was closing in from the blind side on a pivotal fourth-quarter play, forcing Browns quarterback Charlie Frye to hurry a throw that was intercepted by cornerback Chris McAlister in the end zone.

Last Sunday against San Diego, Scott blanketed Chargers tight end Antonio Gates before making his first interception of the season. Scott's 24-yard return -- which featured cutbacks like a running back -- paved the way for the Ravens' first touchdown.

"He is having one heck of a season right now," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Bart is on his way to doing some really great things."

Scott seems to be everywhere on the field. He's stuffing running backs by attacking the line of scrimmage. He's pressuring quarterbacks with his blitzes up the middle.

His eye-popping play has impressed nearly everyone, except Scott.

Scott is tied for the NFL lead with five sacks, but he says he's missed two easy ones this season.

Scott has led the Ravens in tackles the past two weeks, but he says he should have made 24 tackles instead of 19 against the Chargers.

"I haven't played my best football," Scott said. "I haven't even come close to it."

Scott's relentless determination is the reason why he's wreaking havoc on offenses these days.

He came to the Ravens as a raw talent in 2002 and carved a niche on special teams. But he never lost focus on trying to crack the starting lineup.

If he would get beat on a route by tight end Todd Heap in practice, Scott would ask Heap, "What do I have to do? What are you reading? What are you seeing from me that you're cutting off this route?"

Said Heap: "He's done nothing but work the last four years. It's spectacular to see guys like that step up."

Scott said he was ready to start last season, when linebacker Ed Hartwell left to join the Falcons as a free agent. Instead of promoting Scott to fill that starting role, the Ravens went out and signed Tommy Polley.

It wasn't until Lewis went down with a torn hamstring last October that Scott got his chance with the first-team defense. After proving that he could be a quality starter, the Ravens made Scott a priority in free agency, re-signing him to a three-year, $13.5 million contract.

If Lewis hadn't gotten hurt, Scott said his future could have been different.

"I would probably be somewhere else trying to make it and wouldn't have the instant credibility," Scott said. "No one would know if I could play a lick."

With his play this season -- which has already earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Month -- Scott is no longer the Ravens' best-kept secret.

"He has worked very, very hard to get where he is today," said Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta, who looked at Scott in college. "It's not been an easy process for him. There's been a big learning curve. A lot of guys have his type of ability and don't jump through all those hoops."

Broncos:
A couple of longtime Broncos will return home on Monday night.

Defensive end Trevor Pryce, who spent nine seasons with Denver and made four Pro Bowls, and running back Mike Anderson, who had two 1,000-yard seasons with the Broncos, come back to Denver with the Ravens this week.

Denver cut both players in a salary-cap purge in March. Pryce and Anderson were both past 30 years old and due big salaries, so the Broncos decided it was time to move on.

"The salary cap has a lot to do with those things," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "You would like to have a lot of guys on your team for the length of their career, but sometimes it just doesn't work out."

Both players have been replaced pretty easily. Tatum Bell has taken over as Denver's running back and is on pace for 1,000 yards. Denver put Ebenezer Ekuban, who played a lot as a backup last year, into the lineup to replace Pryce. The Broncos' line has gotten decent pressure on the quarterback this season.

The Broncos' players are looking forward to seeing their old teammates this week. They also expect to face two players with a little something to prove.

"I'm pretty sure those guys are going to be fired up," linebacker Al Wilson said. "I know Trevor's going to be fired up, Mike as well. Those guys are going to have a little extra motivation coming into this game."



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