Five keys for the Ravens against the Chargers

Aaron Wilson reports five keys to determining the winner of this weekend's matchup between the Ravens and Chargers. Read on!

1. Who will win the battle of the backs?

There's a major contrast in styles between the Ravens' Jamal Lewis and the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson.

While Lewis looks like a proverbial bull in a china shop, he's much more than a power back. He has a rare element of breakaway speed for a player of his dimensions. He set the NFL mark for rushing in a single game last week against the Cleveland Browns, impressing Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer so much that he compared him to Hall of Famer Earl Campbell.

Lewis will likely have to contend with flailing bodies all afternoon as Schottenheimer has promised to stack the line of scrimmage. Schottenheimer has a habit of trusting his cornerbacks in man-to-man situations. This dates back to his days when he was coaching for Art Modell in Cleveland and featured corners Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon.

Tomlinson is a shifty, elusive talent who's better than advertised between the tackles. His penchant for making defenders miss in the open field can create instant highlight reel material. He was second in the league in rushing last year, and he's miffed that Lewis predicted he will meet the same fate as the Steelers' Amos Zereoue and the Browns' William Green. Tomlinson is determined to not be shut down.

It's critical that Baltimore's defenders be cautious about going for the knockout blow and instead concentrate on form tackles. Otherwise, Tomlinson could go all the way.

2. Rookie quarterback Kyle Boller needs to regain his fundamentals and confidently deliver the football in his return to his Southern California roots, where he had a blue-chip prep career.

The Ravens don't need Boller to be a savior, just an effective quarterback who can keep the Chargers honest. There will be numerous chances for Boller to step forward in the pocket and toss a spiral downfield for a touchdown or a long gain. He just has to trust his instincts.

It's important to get Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap involved along with receiver Travis Taylor. Also, Boller is making the pass blocking look worse than it really is because he's holding the football too long. Decisiveness and execution are what the coaching staff wants to see from Boller.

3. If muscular Chargers wideout David Boston plays through the not-so excruciating pain of a bruised heel, then the Ravens will have to account for a multi-dimensional vertical threat.

Boston is simply too big and strong to be jammed and has the leaping ability to dominate in the red zone and on fly patterns.

4. San Diego kickoff returner Tim Dwight can be dangerous on returns.

Gary Zauner's special teams will be without chief wedge-buster Harold Morrow and possibly rookie standout Gerome Sapp.

5. Baltimore has fumbled eight times and committed 20 penalties through two games. Mistakes like these can prevent any football team from winning.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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