Stover could be key in low-scoring contest

OWINGS MILLS -- In a titanic defensive battle, points are bound to be scarce for both the Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears.

The scoreboard at Soldier Field on Sunday might resemble the numbers at the World Series taking place across town on the South Side.

 

The Ravens (2-3) have the second-ranked defense in the NFL, and the Bears (2-3) rank third.

 

Baltimore is 22nd in total offense, 31st in scoring offense with an average of 12.6 points per contest. The Bears are 28th in total offense and score only 18 points per game.

 

All of which dictates that field position and the competence of the kickers should be paramount.

 

The Ravens feel pretty confident in this area since they have veteran kicker Matt Stover, who has converted his last seven field goals after missing his first three tries. Meanwhile, the Bears will trot out Baltimore discard Robbie Gould, a rookie who has only converted 1 of 2 career field goals since replacing Doug Brien.

 

"It's important because those points are going to be at a premium," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "To have a guy that's been in those conditions is good."
Stover has connected on 82.4 percent (357 of 433) of his career field goals, qualifying him as the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history. He's
 somewhat concerned about the weather conditions off Lake Michigan. He's expecting it to be drizzling in the low 50s on a grass field that could get sloppy.

 

"The grass isn't very good there," Stover said. "It will take me back to my Cleveland days and the first part of my career here kicking on grass. The special-teams battle is going to be huge."

 

FEATURED MATCHUP: It's somewhat ironic that the Ravens will be competing against Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad.

In their wide receiver search that eventually landed them Derrick Mason, Muhammad was one of the Ravens' top targets. However, the Pro Bowl wideout signed a lucrative deal with Chicago literally minutes into the free agent signing period.

 

"I think they signed him at 12:01," Billick said. "It's amazing you can put a contract together in one minute because, of course, there was no contact before then. He's outstanding."

Muhammad is the Bears' leading receiver with 27 receptions for 298 yards and one touchdown. When the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Muhammad and 6-1, 206-pound Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister lock up, it should be an intriguing matchup between two athletic, physical skill players.

"Muhammad has always been one of the best receivers in the league," McAlister said. "He's a big, physical guy. He runs all the routes on the tree. He does a good job of creating separation."

 

TRAINING ROOM: As expected, the Ravens downgraded safety Ed Reed (ankle) and fullback Ovie Mughelli (ankle) Friday to out on the injury report. Although wide receiver Mark Clayton (ankle) was downgraded from questionable to doubtful, Billick reiterated that the rookie won't be playing. Randy Hymes is likely to start.

 

Linebacker Ray Lewis (thigh) didn't practice all week because of a thigh injury as a precautionary measure.

 

"Ray takes a beating inside there," Billick said. "Sometimes, Ray watches and observes and is ready to go. That's what we hope will be the case."

 

Billick said he's hopeful that fullback Alan Ricard (calf) will play. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (arm) was added as probable.

 

QUICK HITS: Lewis rarely compliments offensive linemen, but he singled out Bears center Olin Kreutz for praise by saying he reminds him of Jets center Kevin Mawae and retired Steelers center Dermontti Dawson. "Great center, has great leverage," Lewis said in a conference call with Chicago reporters. "A very athletic center that can really move and get on the other side of linebackers and turn their shoulders." ... Linebacker Tommy Polley will present a $10,000 check to Dunbar High School, his alma mater, on Tuesday when he'll have his high school jersey retired.

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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