Ravens - Chiefs: Inside slant

<b>When the Ravens have the football</b><br><br> Over the last two weeks, the Ravens have run the football 75 times for 426 yards and four touchdowns. Facing the Chiefs' 29th-ranked run defense, it's no shocker that Baltimore will stick with that approach in a variation of the if-it-ain't-broke, don't-fix-it philosophy.

Ravens coach Brian Billick has long advocated that his team is a run-oriented, smash-mouth outfit that doesn't shine when it comes to subtlety. Now, he has a great opportunity to thrive with that strategy.

The Chiefs allowed Denver's Quentin Griffin and Carolina's DeShaun Foster to rush for career-best totals of 156 and 174 yards, respectively. While those are good, up-and-coming running backs, they don't compare to Lewis, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Key matchup

WR Randy Hymes vs. CB Eric Warfield

Hymes is rapidly emerging as the Ravens' top downfield threat on an offense that averages only 126.3 passing yards per contest. He has caught a team-high 12 passes for 124 yards and has Baltimore's lone touchdown reception.

How the Ravens can win

1. Bruise the Chiefs' tomato-soft defensive front with a series of Jamal Lewis zone plays right down their throat.

2. Pressure Kansas City quarterback Trent Green into costly mistakes with aggressive blitz packages, particularly ones that feature outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

3. Find a way to shoot gaps on the Chiefs' blockers with Ray Lewis and Co. to contain decorated, versatile running back Priest Holmes.

When the Chiefs have the football

Offensive coordinator Al Saunders is dedicated to establishing Priest Holmes as much as possible. Through three games, Holmes has toted it 74 times for 351 yards and four touchdowns. He's their top weapon besides Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is like the Ravens' injured Todd Heap with his ability to stretch defenses vertically and create mismatches with smaller, slower, shorter defenders. He has caught 14 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown.

Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison are competent receivers, but can be handled in single coverage by cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter. Trent Green is a capable, but streaky quarterback this year whose immobility has hurt the Chiefs' cause. He has been sacked seven times despite an outstanding offensive line led by Will Shields and Willie Roaf.

Key matchup

LB Terrell Suggs vs. OT Willie Roaf

Suggs is last year's cat-quick NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and sports 15 sacks in 19 career games. Roaf is a go-for-the-throat, nine-time Pro Bowl selection who gives no quarter and asks for none.

How the Chiefs can win

1. Bottle up Jamal Lewis at the line of scrimmage to limit his impact and force Kyle Boller to throw into single coverage outside. The gambit could pay off as Boller tossed a career-high three interceptions a year ago against the Chiefs.

2. Establish a physical presence up front with their overpowering offensive line and pound the running game with Priest Holmes against a smaller defensive line.

3. Locate ultra-talented tight end Tony Gonzalez downfield, screening defenders off to free him up from double-coverage.


Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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