Browns-Ravens: Game Snapshot

The data you need before gametime on Sunday afternoon at 4:15...


KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 9/21/08

SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum

TV: CBS (Bill Macatee, Steve Beuerlein)

SERIES: 19th meeting. The Ravens lead the series, 11-7. The Browns swept the Ravens last year, the first time they did so since 2001. The Ravens have swept the Browns four times.

PREDICTION: Browns 17-13

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns' passing game has struggled with WR Braylon Edwards dropping several passes and Syndric Steptoe unable to fill the shoes of Donte Stallworth, who could miss his third consecutive game. TE Kellen Winslow Jr., wants to be more involved in the passing game and Cleveland needs to build an early lead to put pressure on Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco. The Browns have also been utilizing unbalanced lines in power running formations for RB Jamal Lewis. ... The Browns are giving up 242 passing yards per game, but that hardly means the Ravens are going to turn Flacco loose. With RB Willis McGahee expected to return and be complemented by rookie Ray Rice and bruiser Le'Ron McClain, Baltimore will stick to the ground game as much as possible. The Ravens will attack the edges more to avoid NT Shaun Rogers.

KEY INJURIES: Browns: DE Robaire Smith (Achilles) is out for the season, replaced by Shaun Smith; LG Eric Steinbach is out. Ravens: DT Kelly Gregg (knee) is doubtful; QB Troy Smith (tonsil infection) is out.

FAST FACTS: Edwards is averaging 91.5 receiving yards in four career games against Baltimore, his most against any opponent. ... The Ravens are 31-9 (.775) since 2003 when registering at least three sacks.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Browns
:

--LG Eric Steinbach sat out practice Thursday with a strained shoulder. He did not make the trip to Baltimore. Seth McKinney is likely to start. 

--LB Willie McGinest was rested again Thursday with a hamstring injury. Shantee Orr would start if McGinest cannot play.

--LB Kris Griffin did not make the trip to Baltimore. He is an important player on punt and kick coverage.

--KR, PR and WR Josh Cribbs returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with shoulder and hamstring injuries.

--RB Jamal Lewis was back at practice after missing Wednesday with an ankle injury. He seemed to be limping slightly.

Ravens:

--RB Willis McGahee is expected to play his first game of the season but he might not play a major role in Sunday's game. The Ravens won't even say that McGahee will reclaim his starting job. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain "are the two backs that we're going with, and Willis' role will increase."

--RB Ray Rice should still receive a good amount of carries because the Ravens will go to a running back-by-committee approach. Rice should split time with Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Rice and McClain "are the two backs that we're going with, and Willis' role will increase."

--RB Le'Ron McClain will still be in the mix as a runner even though Willis McGahee is returning for his first game. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Ray Rice and McClain "are the two backs that we're going with, and Willis' role will increase."

--NT Kelly Gregg did not practice Wednesday and Thursday, an indication that he will miss his second game of the season with a knee injury. He would be replaced by Justin Bannan.

--WR Demetrius Williams had his first full practice of the week Thursday and should be the team's No. 3 receiver on Sunday. Williams tweaked his hamstring last week.

--CB Corey Ivy was added to the injury report Thursday and did not practice with an ankle injury. He would be replaced by Fabian Washington as the team's nickel back.


INSIDE THE CAMPS

Browns
:

Derek Anderson is confident the Browns can pull themselves out of a scoring slump that has produced only one touchdown in their first two games. The 16 points is tied with the Rams for the lowest total in the league.

Even the Ravens, their opponents Sunday in Baltimore, have scored 17 points, and they've played only one game.

"I'm frustrated," Anderson said. "I thought going into the first preseason game how well we were playing. Everybody was kind of on the same page. I thought we had a really good camp. And then we started losing guys here and there (with injuries)."

Braylon Edwards missed the last three preseason games with a lacerated heel. Anderson missed the last two with a concussion. Donte Stallworth hasn't practiced or played since straining his quadriceps in warm-ups before the opener. Josh Cribbs missed the last two preseason games and the opener with an ankle injury. Cribbs missed practice Wednesday with hamstring and shoulder injuries but practiced Thursday.

Jamal Lewis had a hamstring injury in preseason and suffered an ankle injury in the second game. He still is less than 100 percent from the hamstring pull. 

"It's not an excuse," Anderson said. "It is frustrating, but we'll be all right. You think it should come right back, but you miss three weeks, 50 plays a day, it's probably close to 1,000 reps you're trying to get back in one week."

Anderson said his confidence in Edwards has not waned. Edwards dropped three passes against Dallas and two against the Steelers. Edwards was not at his locker during the media session Wednesday or Thursday. He was getting treatment on an injured shoulder both days. Edwards was at his locker after the Pittsburgh game, but he would not talk to reporters.

"I'm going to keep throwing him the ball," Anderson said. "I have confidence he's going to catch it. As much as people keep drilling him about it, he's going to be all right.

"It takes just a few plays. Get the ball in his hands a couple times, he gets that confidence going and then it's the old Braylon we know and we all expect to be out there."

Edwards caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. He has five for 46 yards this season.

"It's always troubling when a player goes through times like he's going through, when he's dropping balls that we need him to catch," Crennel said. "We're trying to do everything we can to help get him out of his slump. A lot of times as a receiver, focus on the ball is one of the things."

Edwards has had several distractions, starting with missing three weeks with a lacerated heel. Last week, Crennel had to scold him about his driving habits when a story surfaced Edwards had been stopped for driving 120 M.P.H.

"I told him not to drive so fast," coach Romeo Crennel said.

Donte Stallworth, who would be starting, missed practice again Thursday with a strained quadriceps. He missed the first two games with the injury that flared up in pregame warm-ups Sept. 7. He does not sound confident about playing on Sunday.

"I'm hoping that I can get out there," Stallworth said. "I don't want to be out there and let my pride get in the way and in reality I'd be hurting the team more than I would help it. It's just a matter of me being able to contribute as opposed to being out there and injuring myself again or hurting the team."

Ravens:

When Chris McAlister takes on Cleveland receiver Braylon Edwards, he will be healthier than he has been in two seasons.

The Ravens cornerback estimates that his injured right knee is "90 to 95 percent," which is one reason why McAlister isn't listed on the injury report for the first time this season.

"I don't even think about the knee when I am out there on the field," said McAlister. "Any pain that I may or may not have goes away."

Having a playmaker like McAlister on the field is vital to the Ravens' pass defense. With his size (6 feet 1, 210 pounds) and quickness, McAlister can lock down on any receiver with little help from the rest of the secondary.

When the Ravens played without him last season, they gave up 227.3 yards passing per game, which was only about 11 more yards than they gave up with him.

The difference was felt on the scoreboard. With McAlister, the Ravens allowed 10 passing touchdowns. Without him, they surrendered 17.

"Mac is probably one of the special ones," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Chris is one of those corners that you can put him out there and just say do what you do and we'll check on you at the end of the game."

This will be an interesting test for McAlister on Sunday, when he goes against Edwards.

Will he face the receiver who has as many drops (five) as catches this season? Or will he see the one who caught 11 passes for 182 yards against the Ravens last season?

"I have to stay focused," McAlister said. "Braylon is a great receiver, one of the best deep threats in the league. You have to pay attention to that at all times and not get suckered into some of the short routes he may run or his double-move."

It was on one of those routes last season that Edwards beat McAlister for a 78-yard touchdown in Cleveland. When Edwards caught the ball, he had five yards on McAlister.

"Any defensive back is going to have a tough matchup against Braylon Edwards," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Chris knows that's a big challenge for him."

Before the season opener, the big challenge for McAlister was making it onto the field.

With a swollen right knee, McAlister was having trouble moving around during practice. But he showed no effects of the injury against Cincinnati, making four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. He also helped limit receiver Chad Johnson to one catch for 22 yards.

"I think Chris McAlister has done a great job of fighting through the injury," Harbaugh said. 

McAlister's most telling drive came toward the end of the first half.
He was called for a questionable pass-interference call on the first play and then was flagged for another one two plays later.

In the past, McAlister might have let his emotions get the best of him. Instead, on a third-and-seven play, McAlister tackled tight end Ben Utecht for a two-yard gain to end the series.

"Any corner that's worth a darn has got to respond," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "With Chris, he's not a guy that will back down from a challenge. He faced it head-on. He knew he had to right the ship and he did."


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