2004 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 23rd (12th rush, 22nd pass); defense 23rd (11th rush, 26th pass). Ravens: offense 30th (5th rush, 32nd pass); defense 6th (7th rush, 7th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: Ravens RB Jamal Lewis returns from his two-game suspension to face the Browns, who he has averaged 157 yards rushing and 6.9 yards per carried against in seven precious meetings. But Cleveland held Lewis to 57 yards in a 20-3 victory in the season opener, and Baltimore will again be counting on OT Ethan Brooks to replace Pro Bowl LT Jonathan Ogden. Browns DE Kenard Lang beat Brooks for three sacks in the first meeting. Cleveland has averaged 421.5 total yards in its past two games, but the Ravens have allowed just one 300-yard passer in their past 12 games. Despite allowing two costly long pass plays in its Week 1 loss, Baltimore believes its corners can handle the Browns receivers and will focus on shutting down RBs William Green and Lee Suggs.
FAST FACTS: Browns: QB Jeff Garcia's passer rating is 106.3 in the team's three victories and 52.9 in its four losses. ... Are 1-3 on Sunday night's since returning to the league in 1999. K Phil Dawson's 24 consecutive field goals made is the longest active streak in the NFL. Ravens: Lead the series 7-4. ... LB Ray Lewis has recorded at least 10 tackles in 15 consecutive games. ... Ogden has not missed consecutive games since 1998.
PREDICTION: Ravens 19-13
- OL Javiar Collins was waived to create a
roster spot for wide receiver/kick returner Richard Alston, who was
activated from the practice squad Thursday.
- WR Andre King is listed as doubtful but his
sprained ankle is getting worse, not better, Butch Davis said.
- SS Robert Griffith has become a peacemaker
to offset any problems that could develop from Chris Crocker replacing Earl Little at free safety. Little says he is being made a scapegoat for big
plays the Browns are yielding.
- DT Gerard Warren is eager to take on the
Ravens and Jamal Lewis. Warren pulled a pectoral muscle and did not play the
last three quarters against the Ravens in the opener. He has been back for
the last two games.
- OL Anthony Oakley was added to the practice squad. Oakley was with the Browns in training camp.
- OT Jonathan Ogden did not practice for a
second straight day because of a pulled hamstring and won't play. He is
still walking with a limp. He will be replaced by Ethan Brooks.
- TE Todd Heap did not practice for a second
straight day because of a sprained ankle and is considered a long shot to
play Sunday. The injury, once believed to keep him out four weeks, has
sidelined him for the past five.
- LB Ray Lewis has been kept out of practice
the past two days as a precautionary measure. He has been hindered by a knee
injury but will start Sunday.
- NT Maake Kemoeatu was added to the injury
report with an ankle injury. He is expected to be able to back up Kelly Gregg.
- WR Clarence Moore is expected to start opposite Travis Taylor, replacing Kevin Johnson. He had three catches for 82 yards last game in Philadelphia.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Desperate for a spark in their sputtering kick return game, Browns Coach Butch Davis is going back to Richard Alston for the critical game Sunday night against the Ravens in Baltimore. Alston's only appearance this season was as a kick returner in the Giants game Sept. 26, and it was nothing special - five returns for 91 yards in a 27-10 Browns loss.
Alston started the season on the practice squad and went back to the practice squad after the Giants game because linebacker Barry Gardner was injured and Davis needed a linebacker to replace Gardner. Mason Unck was activated from the practice squad. Alston was activated Thursday because at this point no one else is healthy enough or trustworthy enough to return kicks.
Under other circumstances, Andre King would return kicks, but he won't play against the Ravens because of a sprained ankle. Frisman Jackson and James Jackson each fumbled a kick return against the Eagles.
Dee Brown has returned a majority of kicks for the Browns - 13 of them for a mediocre 18.7-yard average - but he has already been released twice and the Browns have no apparent interest in signing him again.
Andre Davis could be the Browns' best kick returner, but he is coming off a sprained toe and when he's healthy he is the best deep threat at wide receiver, so Butch Davis doesn't want to risk losing him on kick returns. Lee Suggs would be another possibility, but he is too valuable as a running back to risk on kick returns.
"Turnovers is the No. 1 statistic that decides games," Butch Davis said. "Next is rushing. Last week teams that outrushed their opponents were 14-0.
"After that it's kick and punt return differential. We've won that in four of the seven games we've played, but kick return is something we need to improve."
The Browns are ahead in the kick return-punt return differential only because Derrick Frost has done well hanging his punts high and not allowing long returns. The Browns rank 31st of 32 on kick returns. Only Tennessee is worse than the Browns' average of 16.9 yards a return.
As the Ravens near the midway point of their season, the biggest disappointment has been receiver Kevin Johnson.
Entering Sunday's game against the Browns -- his former team -- Johnson has 11 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns. Those are not the numbers the Ravens anticipated when they traded a fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for him.
Although Johnson remains listed as a starter, he is expected to fall to the No. 3 receiver behind Travis Taylor and Clarence Moore.
"We expected to Kevin to come in and be very effective in a three, four wide package. Injuries changed that dramatically," coach Brian Billick said. "Although he has done fine with that on a running profile team, he is most efficient when he's in that three or four wide receiver set. So unfortunately, he's been a byproduct of our injuries in that he's been pushed into a role that he's certainly capable of doing but doesn't play to his strengths."
What could be working against Johnson is his lack of size. At 5-feet-11, 195 pounds, he is the smallest of the Ravens receivers.
But that didn't hinder him in his five seasons with the Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, where he averaged four catches a game. In his first seven games with the Ravens, he has caught not caught more than two passes in a game since the opener.
Of his 38 pass attempts on Sunday, quarterback Kyle Boller threw to Johnson only twice.
Asked if his time with the Ravens has been different than what he first anticipated, Johnson said, "Definitely. But I just want to win. That's been my goal every since I stepped foot in this building. Hopefully, I can get the opportunity to contribute."