Sapp, Bucs a hefty load for Ravens' line

Bald head steaming, bloodshot eyes, laughter spilling out of his mouth while gloating over another fallen quarterback. That's the usual custom for Warren Sapp. Sapp talks. He sacks. Then, he talks some more. The Baltimore Ravens' offensive line wants to prevent a repeat of that kind of sequence by the controversial Tampa Bay Buccaneers' All-Pro defensive tackle from occurring in today's game at Ravens Stadium.

Only, there are a few significant obstacles to having offensive line coach Jim Colletto design his entire blocking schemes around containing Sapp.

Sapp isn't alone in his zeal to ambush Ravens quarterback Chris Redman and running back Jamal Lewis. He has qualified company in fellow former first-round draft picks Anthony "Booger" McFarland, a bullish tackle, and speed-rushing end Simeon Rice.

"They have speed all over the defensive line," Ravens offensive guard Bennie Anderson said. "We have to be strong in our technique. This is our biggest challenge.

 "Our goal is to dominate. We're competitors. We'll get the job done."

The Bucs' front seven also features All-Pro outside linebacker Derrick Brooks as well as All-Pro strong safety John Lynch, an aggressive blitzer known for pressing the line of scrimmage.

"Fortunately, I don't have to," Ravens coach Brian Billick quipped when asked about slowing down the Bucs' front seven. "The hard thing is schemes only go so far. When you're that good across the board, that's where their strength is and that's why they have such a good defensive team."

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's unit appears hungry again after allowing New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks' offense to pile up 368 yards and convert half of its third downs as Tampa Bay took a 26-20 overtime loss last weekend.

The Bucs responded in the fourth quarter after allowing the Saints a 20-10 advantage on 328 yards, 9 of 14 third-down conversions, generating no sacks on Brooks through three quarters. Derrick Brooks intercepted a pass late in the third followed by Sapp and Rice's pressure helping to close the gap

"We need to match their intensity and bring even more intensity to get this victory," Rice said. "We are both trying to get our feet out of the mud."

Baltimore knows it has to improve its blocking from last week's 10-7 loss to Carolina when a botched protection on Julius Peppers led to a batted Redman pass for a game-clinching interception.

The Ravens allowed two sacks. Redman was hit at least 10 times.

"I think we have to play better," offensive guard Casey Rabach said. "We have to step it up a notch. You have to bring your ‘A' game."

Rabach said Baltimore will employ some double-teams with center Mike Flynn on McFarland and Sapp, who weigh a combined 603 pounds. Despite 112 sacks in the past three seasons by the defensive line, including 66.5 by Sapp, this unit hasn't backed up all of its chatter.

Sapp promised to break Mark Gastineau's sack record last year, but was held to six sacks while New York Giants end Michael Strahan broke the mark on Brett Favre's questionable slide.

Then, Sapp initiated a war of words with Strahan for the way the record was broken.

Sapp also has an ongoing public feud with teammate Keyshawn Johnson, but hasn't said much this week about Baltimore, or anything else.

 "We need to match their intensity and bring even more intensity to get this victory," Rice said. "We are both trying to get our feet out of the mud."

Anderson knows about chatting with Sapp through experience gained in last season's 22-10 loss in Tampa Bay.

"I thought it went pretty good on the field," Anderson said. "He talked to me. I talked back. He didn't say anything personal. He said, ‘You can't stop me.' I responded and told him to, ‘Come on, we'll see.'

"You have to be physical with him."

Rice represents a different challenge altogether for Ravens All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who has had trouble with athletic rushers in the past.

Light for end at 6-foot-5, 268 pounds, Rice recorded 11 sacks last season to lead the Bucs and rank sixth in the NFC.

"It's always a touch matchup," Ogden said. "Simeon's a good player. We just have to be on top of our game this week, no doubt about it. We have to handle pressure a little better than we did last week."

 Right tackle Edwin Mulitalo draws undersized end Greg Spires, who collected six tackles against New Orleans. Mulitalo said he'll keep an eye out for Derrick Brooks and Lynch.

Mulitalo wants to beat Tampa Bay to the punch. Otherwise, it could be a long day.

"When you play the best, it brings out the best in you," Rabach said. "Obviously, this is one of the better defensive lines. I'm looking forward to it."


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