To stay atop the AFC North -- the Ravens are tied for first place with the Cincinnati Bengals -- they don't have to dig very far to see how teams have beaten San Francisco. The 49ers have allowed an average of 160.2 yards rushing in going 0-5 on the road. Teams have produced 4.5 yards per rush when San Francisco comes to town. San Francisco allowed 243 yards last Sunday against Green Bay, the league's top rushing attack. Now comes the NFL's second-best ground game in Baltimore, who usually ride the league's leading rusher Jamal Lewis.
Last Sunday, Baltimore had to throw for 276 yards in playing catch-up. But the game plan is expected to go back to return from the air to the ground.
"That's our profile. We are who we are," coach Brian Billick said. "We'd love to get that aspect of it cranked up. But we're going to need a complete game plan. We're going to need to hit some things outside. We're going to need a complete game.
"The No. 1 thing is turnovers and mistakes. We can't have the penalties we've had and we've can't have the turnovers we've had and expect to win."
Turnovers have played different roles for the Ravens and 49ers.
The Ravens have turned the ball over an AFC-worst 27 times (13 interceptions, 14 fumbles) while San Francisco has forced 27 turnovers (17 interceptions, 10 fumbles), which is second-worst in the NFC. "That is something that obviously commands our attention," Billick said. "We just have to find a way not to turn the ball over. When we don't, things usually turn out well for us."
SERIES HISTORY: Second meeting. The 49ers won the only meeting between the two teams, a 38-20 victory in San Francisco in 1996. The Ravens took a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter only to have the 49ers score three straight touchdowns to end the game. San Francisco took the lead for good midway with a 16-play, 67-yard drive that ate up 8 minutes, 54 seconds of the third quarter. The marathon possession was capped by William Floyd's 1-yard run.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--The best matchup of the game pits Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister against San Francisco receiver Terrell Owens. Over the past six weeks, McAlister has shadowed the opposition's top receiver and held them in check. Owens is a challenge because he is just as big and quick as McAlister. "When Chris makes his mind up, ain't too many people are going to catch too many passes," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "That's just Chris."
Owens is the 49ers' favorite target inside the 20-yard line and McAlister assumes he will get a chance to knock heads with him in the red zone. "You can expect the coverage we're going to be in is going to allow us to get physical down there in the red zone because that's what works with our defense," McAlister said.
--The 49ers defense ranks 12th in the NFL but it drew high praise from the Ravens. "This is maybe the most athletic and fastest defense we'll face," coach Brian Billick said. "This game is going to be a task for us. The importance is obvious."
--Matt Stover kicked his first game-winning field goal in the Ravens' eight-year existence in Sunday's 44-41 overtime win against Seattle. He had two previous chances to win a game -- 1996 against St. Louis and 1997 against Philadelphia -- and missed both times. For the past five seasons, he never was put in an opportunity to win a game. "I'm just thinking there's going to me more, all of a sudden it's going to start flooding," Stover said. "That's my attitude right now. If that comes, I'm going to go out there and do the best I can."
--Jamal Lewis continues to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,364 yards, which is 38 more than Green Bay's Ahman Green, the league's second-leading rusher.
--The Ravens have been penalized 34 times in their last three games. In their first eight games, they averaged 7.8 penalties per game.
--In the 35 games that running back Jamal Lewis and linebacker Ray Lewis (no relation) have played together over the last four years, the Ravens are 24-12.
--The Ravens are 24-12 in games played in November and December, the league's fourth-best winning percentage in those months.
--When leading at halftime and after three quarters, the Ravens are 5-0. When they trail by six or more points at the end of the first quarter, they are 0-3.
--In five seasons under Billick, the Ravens have a 22-5 record when they produce a 100-yard rusher.
--The Ravens are 4-0 at home against NFC West opponents.
BY THE NUMBERS: 99 -- Points scored in the fourth quarter by the Ravens this season, their most in any quarter.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Is this the watershed moment for this young team? We'll see when we look back on it based on what we do going forward. But it has that potential." -- Coach Brian Billick on the Ravens overcoming a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit Sunday to beat the Seattle Seahawks, 44-41.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Ravens are expected to shuffle their secondary with the struggles and injuries to cornerback Corey Fuller. Fuller, who did not play after giving up an 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter, said he pulled himself out because of a hamstring injury. The Ravens may only be able to depend on Fuller for 30 snaps, causing them to go to a younger lineup. That would mean free safety Gary Baxter would move to Fuller's cornerback spot and Will Demps would start at free safety. When they go into their nickel package, Fuller would jump in at corner and Baxter would shift to cover the slot receiver. When Fuller was sidelined two games recently with hamstring and groin injuries, the Ravens held Jacksonville and St. Louis to 208 and 110 yards passing, respectively. They picked off three passes and allowed one touchdown.
--QB Kyle Boller (leg) is out and expects to return for the Dec. 21 game at Cleveland.
--DE Tony Weaver (neck) is doubtful and is not expected to play.
--TE John Jones (leg) is questionable.
--CB Corey Fuller (leg) is questionable and will be limited to nickel and dime situations.
--CB Tom Knight (ankle) is questionable and likely will be a game-time decision.
--OT Orlando Brown (leg) is probable and will start at right tackle.
--RB Chester Taylor (neck) is probable and will back up Jamal Lewis.
GAME PLAN: Although the Ravens showed they could air it out last Sunday, they will stick with their run-dominated formula. They still feel their best chances of winning are a grind-it-out ground game, a strong defense and solid special teams. The 49ers have struggled against the run on the road, giving up an average of 160.2 yards per game and 4.5 yards per rush. The Ravens defense needs to take advantage of a banged-up San Francisco offensive line. Their front seven will look to get penetration to stop to Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow. Slowing down whoever is at quarterback -- either Jeff Garcia or Tim Rattay -- will depend on how much pressure the Ravens can apply.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister vs. 49ers receiver Terrell Owens. Besides allowing a 38-yard touchdown last week, McAlister has shut down the team's top receiver the past six games. Owens represents the biggest challenge of the season. He has caught a touchdown in each of the past three games and has had 113 passes thrown his way, tied for third-most in the league.
--Ravens running back Jamal Lewis vs. 49ers run defense. Lewis has gained 100 yards in eight of 11 games this season and leads the league with 1,364 yards rushing. The 49ers have the NFL's ninth-best run defense but got lit up for 243 yards rushing by the Packers last Sunday.
--Ravens pass rush vs. 49ers pass protection. The Ravens have recorded 14 sacks over the past four games and the combination of Terrell Suggs and Peter Boulware can cause havoc. The 49ers allowed four sacks last week and are scrambling at guard, where starter Ron Stone (hamstring) likely won't play and his backup, Dwayne Ledford (ankle), could be out for the season.
INJURY IMPACT: Quarterback Kyle Boller (leg) is out and will be replaced by Anthony Wright.
--Defensive end Tony Weaver (neck) is not expected to play and will be replaced by rookie Jarret Johnson, the team's fourth-round draft pick.
--CB Corey Fuller (leg) will be limited to passing situations, which means Gary Baxter will start at corner.
--CB Tom Knight (leg) is questionable and may miss his fourth game of the season. He would be replaced at nickel back by Fuller.