The Ravens are 3-1 coming off 10 days rest while the struggling Chiefs are 1-3. Can you spell “Trap Game” ?
I think coach Harbaugh is able to get his team in the “proper focus” frame of mind…and to avoid getting trapped into looking past the struggling Chiefs.
The Ravens will try to again make things difficult for Matt Cassel, whose turnovers have been one of the biggest reasons for the Chiefs’ slow start.
Baltimore (3-1) has been off since beating Cleveland 23-16 last Thursday, its fourth game in 18 days. The veteran defense, led by 37-year-old Ray Lewis, admitted being a bit winded at the end of the game as the Browns’ last-ditch pass attempt from the Ravens’ 18-yard line fell incomplete. “I know a lot of guys out there were fighting fatigue,” safety Ed Reed said.
Coach John Harbaugh gave his team last weekend off to rest and get healthy before beginning a stretch of three of four games on the road.
The only time the Ravens have played away from Baltimore – in Philadelphia on Sept. 16 – their offense stalled, totaling a season-low 325 yards while turning the ball over twice in a 24-23 loss. In their three games at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens have averaged 32.7 points and 457.0 yards with two total turnovers.
Crowd noise forced Joe Flacco and the offense to huddle up at times in Philadelphia, and Harbaugh expects similar challenges at Arrowhead. “The times we’ve played in Arrowhead Stadium, it’s been really loud,” Harbaugh said. “It’s one of the great venues in the NFL. It’s a beautiful setting, it’s traditional and it’s really, really red. Our guys will have to be ready for that.”
Despite Kansas City’s home-field advantage, the Ravens had little trouble in their last game there, winning 30-7 in a January 2010 wild-card game. Flacco passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns, Ray Rice finished with 99 yards from scrimmage and a score while Baltimore picked Cassel off three times.
While Arrowhead still gets loud, much of the noise there this year has been booing directed at Cassel. The embattled quarterback has thrown seven interceptions and has fumbled three times, accounting for two-thirds of the team’s league-high 15 turnovers. The Chiefs (1-3) have been outscored 77-44 in losing their two home games, and have lost six of their last seven at Arrowhead.
“It starts with me,” said Cassel, who was intercepted three times in last Sunday’s 37-20 loss to San Diego. “I’ve got to do a better job of protecting the football and putting our team in a better situation to be successful.” Coach Romeo Crennel felt the need to defend Cassel, opening his postgame press conference by stating he would remain the starting quarterback without even being asked.
But make no mistake—Brady Quinn will be warmed up and ready if Cassel stumbles to a poor start.
Cassel wasn’t the only one at fault Sunday, as Jamaal Charles fumbled twice – part of a six-turnover performance by the Chiefs. Cleaning up their miscues against a Ravens team that has forced eight turnovers seems like a tall order for the Chiefs. KC is banking on their rushing offense with Charles, who has run for 325 yards in the last two games— but now faces a Baltimore defense that’s allowed 2.4 yards per carry in its last two.
The Ravens’ offense has been far more efficient. Flacco has completed 28 passes in each of the past two games, totaling 738 yards. Torrey Smith was on the receiving end of 12 of those completions, accumulating 224 yards, while Anquan Boldin had 13 receptions for 179 yards.
None of this bodes well for Kansas City, which has allowed 10 passing TDs – tied for second-most in the league.
RB Ray Rice from Wednesday’s press conference at team headquarters: “On offense, we are just doing our job. We have a young defense. Regardless of what people want to say about the age thing, the oldest guys on our defense are Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed]. For the most part, our defense is very young right now. When you lose a Terrell Suggs – when you go through the adversity that we had to go through – and you lose the kind of guys that we lost, of course there is going to be a little bit of a rebuilding process. But, does our defense get after it? Yes, they do. We’ve given up a few plays, but that’s not to say about … You take away the big plays that we gave up, our defense is right up there at the top. That’s something that we all will work to get corrected. On offense, we feel like we can do better. Do I expect our defense to be ranked in the Top 10, maybe Top 5 at the end of the year? Of course, because we’ve always done that – we’ve always gotten it together. It’s still early. Everybody’s still figuring each other out. But, the greatest part about coming away with our defense being young and our team being where we are at [is that] we finished the toughest part of the season 3-1.”
Sounds like Rice is ready for the Chiefs.
“I feel unbelievable right now. [Are you] kidding me? (laughing) We wanted to use this time as like another bye. If you have a long weekend and played the amount of games that we played in that short period of a time, you want to use the extra couple of days like a bye weekend. That’s what we did. Coach Harbaugh did a great job of taking care of us.”
More preview stuff to come…The Chiefs have some pretty good players (like their linebackers) that need to be accounted for…