Ravens Bengals - five keys to the game

1. Create scoring options outside of Jamal Lewis and Matt Stover.<br><br> Without injured Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, the Baltimore Ravens' already-anemic passing game is in serious disarray. Ranked 30th in the NFL and averaging 126.5 passing yards per contest, the Ravens also won't have starting receiver Travis Taylor for the second consecutive week.

Between receivers Kevin Johnson, Randy Hymes, rookies Clarence Moore and Devard Darling plus tight ends Terry Jones and Daniel Wilcox, someone has to gain separation downfield and catch the football.

Quarterback Kyle Boller is going to have to identify open routes quickly and deliver passes accurately to hold off Bengals coach Marvin Lewis' blitz package and line stunts. There will be opportunities for Boller to make an impact, but he can't hesitate as he did a few times in last week's 30-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Boller needs another efficient, turnover-free game as well as sprinkling in more big plays. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass with his one score called back due to a penalty.

2. Bust a long run.

Jamal Lewis has rushed for 119 yards through two games on 44 carries for two touchdowns and an average of 2.7 yards per carry. The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year is on pace for 952 yards after gaining a league-high 2,066 yards last season.

At this point last year, he had 364 yards on 45 carries and three touchdowns by virtue of a league-record 295 yards against Cleveland.

Lewis said he's unconcerned that his longest run is 12 yards. He's a strong second-half runner who tends to pick up momentum and yards through attrition.

He rushed for a total of 281 yards against the Bengals last season with 762 yards in six games on 139 carries for six touchdowns.

The Bengals allowed only 25 rushing yards last week to the Miami Dolphins. However, Miami no longer have that wayward traveler and marijuana connoisseur Ricky Williams.

3. Contain the Bengals' passing game.

The Bengals are dangerous downfield, especially receiver Chad Johnson. He has 144 receiving yards on eight catches and one touchdown. Against Baltimore, Johnson has 21 receptions for 361 yards and three touchdowns in six career games. He was held to just two catches for 15 yards in a 31-13 Baltimore win last December, admitting afterward that "7-11 got shut down."

Besides Johnson, the Bengals feature Peter Warrick, who has a team-high 11 catches for 127 yards.

First-year quarterback Carson Palmer, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, has ably replaced Jon Kitna and has the size and arm strength to throw over the top of defenses. He has looked fairly sharp, especially in a two-minute drill against the Dolphins, completing 60 percent of his passes through two games for a 74.8 passer rating.

4. Pressure Palmer.

The Dolphins generated five sacks last Sunday night, penetrating the Bengals' porous offensive line at will.

5. Cut down on penalties.

A week ago, the Ravens committed 10 penalties for 123 yards, including six unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Not coincidentally, the organization had officials attend Thursday's practice to try to reverse the trend.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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