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Can Ravens' new receivers catch fire?

A closer look at Sunday's first-round game between Baltimore and Kansas City.

January 08, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will become the fifth NFL quarterback to start playoff games in each of his first three seasons.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will become the fifth NFL quarterback… (Tony Dejak / Associated…)

Baltimore spent a lot of money to build a solid receiving corps around third-year quarterback Joe Flacco, but so far it hasn't paid big dividends.

Even with the addition of receivers Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the passing offense has dropped two spots from last season to 20th.

In their last game, a 13-7 win over Cincinnati, the Ravens mustered 199 yards and converted just two of 11 third downs. They're going to need to do better than that Sunday at Kansas City, where the Chiefs are 7-1.

"What we need to do is eliminate mistakes and just perform the way we practice," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told reporters this week. "The great thing about the playoffs is that it's a new season, and it's proven year after year that teams can elevate their play. What better time for us to play the way you've seen us play in spurts throughout the entire season in various games?"

Said receiver Derrick Mason: "We're going to have to click on all cylinders. We got to make some things work, regardless of what's called. We can no longer point the finger. We got to make it work as an offensive unit. There's no more excuses, because excuses are going to get you beat."

Spreading the wealth

Should Kansas City's Thomas Jones run for a touchdown Sunday, he would become the first player in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown in the postseason for three different teams.

Jones has scored five rushing touchdowns in seven career playoff games -- four for Chicago during the 2006 season, and one for the New York Jets in their wild-card victory over Cincinnati last season.

A piece of advice

Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was an understudy to Tom Brady in New England for three seasons and says the Patriots star is "like a brother to me."

Cassel, who backed up both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC and never started a game in college, soaked in everything he could from this season's likely most valuable player.

"Tom is a guy that has been a mentor to me since the day I walked into the league," he said.

In fact, Cassel and Brady talked Tuesday when the Chiefs passer was looking for tips.

Said Cassel, laughing: "He told me everything we needed to do to beat them."

No average Joe

Flacco will become the fifth quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game in each of his first three seasons, and the first to do so since Cleveland's Bernie Kosar (1985-87). Others who accomplished the feat are Miami's Dan Marino (1983-85), the L.A. Rams' Pat Haden (1976-78), and Cleveland's Otto Graham 1950-52).

Meanwhile, Flacco and John Harbaugh are the first quarterback-head coach tandem to begin their NFL careers at the same time and lead a team to the playoffs in each of their first three seasons.

Road warriors

Although the Chiefs have proved they're very good at home, the Ravens are a franchise that's accustomed to playing postseason games on the road. Ten of Baltimore's 14 playoff games have come away from home -- counting this one -- and the Ravens are 6-3 in those road games, tying them for the best such winning percentage in league history (minimum five games).

Baltimore, 6-3, .667
Carolina, 4-2, .667
New England, 7-9, .438
Pittsburgh, 7-9, .438
Dallas, 9-14, .391

Another view

Former NFL coach Herm Edwards, now an ESPN analyst, on the Ravens: "This team is built around one guy and on offense, it's real simple … No. 27, Ray Rice. When Ray Rice can get the ball in his hands, whether you run it or throw it to him, they become better on offense."

By the numbers

How the teams compare statistically. All statistics are per-game averages, except for turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):

Points scored 22.3 (16)-22.9 (14)
Points allowed 16.9 (3)-20.4 (11)
Pass offense 208.4 (20)-185.5 (30)
Rush offense 114.4 (14)-164.2 (1)
Pass defense 224.9 (21)-219.9 (17)
Rush defense 93.9 (5)-110.2 (14)
Sacks 1.69 (27)-2.38 (12)
Penalties 42.1 (27) 48.2 (17)
Turnovers +7 (9), +9 (6)

Farmer's pick

If the Ravens can get Rice on a roll and take the Sea of Red crowd out of the game, the Ravens will become the second team this season to win in KC.


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