Veteran defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes has engineered a scheme that keeps linebackers John Mobley, Al Wilson and Ian Gold free to penetrate the line of scrimmage. Bulky Chester McGlockton and former Raven tackle Lional "Jelly" Dalton are supposed to occupy the blockers, just as Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams once did for Baltimore All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
Entering Monday night's game at Ravens Stadium, the undefeated Broncos lead the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 47.3 yards per contest for a measly three yards per attempt.
The gauntlet has been thrown down to running back Jamal Lewis and his offensive line. Can they mount a running game? Can they do what the St. Louis Rams' Marshall Faulk, the
"They penetrate and they're very fast, but I think we can get them flowing, get a couple of cutback lanes and be able to run on them," Lewis said of the matchup with the Broncos' linebackers. "They're not spectacular. They don't do anything too different. I think they're an average defense that puts their hats in the right place sometimes. Just because they're ranked No. 1 against the run, doesn't make them great run-stoppers."
Center Mike Flynn's goal is to reach the so-called second level by firing off the line to slow down the Broncos' designated tacklers. Flynn will attempt to use the linebackers' lack of size against them.
Flynn said he'll also try to take the linebackers in the opposite direction of where the Ravens' running plays are designed to go. That way, Lewis can have a clear vision of lanes to burst through. "Those guys can really run, but they're not very big," Flynn said. "So, hopefully, I can be physical with them when I catch up with them."
With Edwin Mulitalo moving back inside to left offensive guard after a failed experiment at right tackle, this kind of game could be right up his alley.
Mulitalo is enthused about leaning on people with his 347 pounds. He's aware of what the Broncos do well, too. "You've got to take your proper angle and, hopefully, they don't beat us to that point," Mulitalo said. "Hopefully, the running backs see that color and cut back if they beat us. Of course, their linebackers are a little smaller, but they are quick. I think it's going to be a good matchup."
Consider Lewis not easily impressed by the Broncos, but the burly, surgically-reconstructed back has an impressive track record against
In a 21-3 victory over
Lewis insists he's ready for at least 25 carries after rushing for 117 yards on 34 carries and no touchdowns in the Ravens' two losses to open the season. He's also certain he's a better back today than he was when he faced
After seeing the running game not emphasized as
Lewis said he needs more carries to warm up and he wants to try to wear down the
Something will have to give, although
A published report extrapolated the
"It's situations," Lewis said. "I've seen guys run the ball on them. Again, I don't see them as that spectacular. I think we can run the ball on them."