Ravens' 5 Keys to the game

A regular Ravensinsider.com feature. Senior writer Aaron Wilson gives us 5 strategic keys to the game for the Baltimore Ravens in tonight's match-up with local NFC rivals the Washington Redskins.

1. Stop the bleeding.

The Baltimore Ravens were dismantled in a 27-24 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs marked by embarrassing defensive breakdowns. They allowed 398 yards of total offense, linebacker Ray Lewis was uncharacteristically roughed up and the secondary faltered on third downs as Trent Green picked them apart.

Now, they play the Washington Redskins tonight and have a chance for redemption. The Redskins' offensive centerpiece is running back Clinton Portis, whom Lewis confidently stated isn't the caliber of Priest Holmes.

Portis has already fumbled three times, and might cough one up again tonight in the open field against a Baltimore defense with something to prove. Quarterback Mark Brunell isn't as elusive as he used to be when he was a younger man playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The key is to stop the Redskins from hitting a bomb when they run a maximum-protection blocking scheme against a defense that generated only one sack against the Chiefs. That trend can't continue, or Baltimore will drop to 2-3 heading into the bye week.

Without injured Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, the Baltimore Ravens' already-anemic passing game is in severe disarray. Ranked 32th in the NFL, the Ravens won't have starting receiver Travis Taylor for the fourth consecutive week.

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

So far, Hymes has been the only one up to that task. He's the Ravens' leading receiver and has their only two touchdown catches. Quarterback Kyle Boller is going to have to identify open routes quickly and deliver passes accurately to hold off Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' blitz package.

There will be opportunities for Boller to make an impact, but he can't hesitate as he did in the two-minute drill last week. Sure, his passer rating is up, but his amount of big plays aren't enough yet.

2. Bust a long run.

Jamal Lewis has been under immense pressure and stress with his guilty plea for using a cellular phone to facilitate a drug transaction and a suspension from the NFL is likely in the offing. He's headed to jail after the season.

It's been a rough week for him certainly, and this might be a chance for him to relieve some stress and rack up some yards. The Redskins' run defense is formidable, ranking first against the run. However, Lewis remains one of the top offensive weapons in football. This could be his last game for a while, too, because the NFL is expected to rule on his situation during the bye week unless he appeals and he could face a suspension of up to four games.

3. Pressure Brunell

The Ravens only sacked Trent Green once, putting too much pressure on the secondary.

4. Contain the Redskins' passing game.

The Redskins are dangerous, especially receiver Laveranues Coles. He has 291 receiving yards on 24 catches. Rod Gardner is a tough possession receiver with 20 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Portis is a threat out of the backfield on swing and screen passes and will need to be accounted for.

5. Keep it going in the return game.

Rookie return man B.J. Sams is indeed quite a find. He's one of the most positive things happening with this football team that's reeling from a nationally televised debacle.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and ravensinsider.com


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