Ravens Secondary Ready for Browns?

Despite a series of injuries to their defensive backfield, the Ravens came up strong against Bengals

The Ravens' banged-up secondary could be getting healthier as they prepare to play the Cleveland Browns' high-powered passing attack.

Safety Ed Reed, who played despite a head injury, should be improved. Cornerback Chris McAlister, who has missed three games with a right knee strain, might be able to play. And cornerback Corey Ivy, who has been filling in for Samari Rolle (illness), should be able to start after suffering a concussion Sunday.

The Ravens originally thought McAlister would be able to play two weeks ago. But his injury has continued to linger.

Asked if McAlister seemed to be improving, Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "He was moving around pretty good the latter part of (last) week. We'll see what this week brings."

This is good news for a secondary that is coming off an admirable performance Sunday in a 21-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Derrick Martin (22 years old), Ronnie Prude (25) and Willie Gaston (24) received significant action, and matched up against a Pro Bowl quarterback in Carson Palmer and a dangerous receiving corps in Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry. And these young corners didn't allow a touchdown.

"We were all we got," Martin said of their mentality. "We had to play -- just us."

Martin finished the game with five tackles, Prude compiled four tackles and deflected a pass and Gaston had one tackle. The secondary also limited the Cincinnati passing attack to one completion longer than 25 yards.

But perhaps the biggest victory was preventing a trip into the end zone. It was a much-noted departure from last week's 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in which the defense allowed five passing touchdowns -- all in the first half.

"We didn't give up any touchdowns, so I think that was our main goal coming into this game," Prude said. "I think as a whole, the secondary played pretty well. This whole week, we studied their tendencies and just came out and played."

The Ravens, though, could be better suited to match up against the Browns, who have earned a lot of respect from the Ravens' defense.

Cleveland has some young playmakers in quarterback Derek Anderson, receiver Braylon Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow.

Anderson was a former sixth-round pick by the Ravens who was picked up by the Browns when the Ravens tried to put him on the practice squad.

"I think he's having a fine season," Billick said. "He's doing a great job for them, and they're playing very well as a team. They're right in the thick of it, and Derek's a fine young man. We'll look forward to competing with them on Sunday."

The Ravens have the 12th-ranked pass defense in the NFL, which is solid considering the number of injuries they have had to overcome.

But the disappointing part of the defense has been their inability to bully quarterbacks like they did a year ago.

The Ravens have only made 11 interceptions (tied for eighth in the NFL) and 21 sacks (15th in the league) this season.


--QB Steve McNair is hurting the Ravens more than helping them. In six starts this season, he has two touchdowns passes and 11 turnovers (four interceptions and seven fumbles).

--RB Willis McGahee is sixth in the NFL in rushing with 749 yards. The Ravens could be getting the ball to him more. His attempts (19.4 per game) are 11th in the league.

--FS Ed Reed is tied for second in the NFL with five interceptions. He hasn't had a pick in two of his past three games.

--WR Derrick Mason is tied for second in the NFL with 66 catches. But his 9.0-yard per catch average is the lowest among the top six receivers.

--K Matt Stover is tied for third in the NFL with 18 field goals. But he hasn't had one attempt his past three games.

--LB Ray Lewis is seventh in the NFL with 75 tackles. He has had double-digit tackles in two of his past three games.

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