Cornerbacks face deeper threats in Brown, Jett

Oakland has big edge in experience, so Ravens due major test in back

Raiders' pass offense vs. Ravens' pass defense

January 11, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

It will be a test of experience and a battle of confidence.

The Ravens' cornerbacks, Chris McAlister and Duane Starks, have a combined five years in the league and continue to learn on the job. The Oakland Raiders' receivers, Tim Brown and James Jett, have been in the NFL for 13 and eight seasons, respectively, and know all the tricks in the passing game.

The Ravens' defensive backs will look to set a physical tone against the Raiders, who will try to outmuscle them if they press at the line.

In the playoffs, the Ravens have had their way on pass defense.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing only 50 percent of their passes while throwing no touchdowns and two interceptions. Teams have only had passing success with short games, averaging 8.6 yards per completion.

Oakland's passing game presents a variety of options.

Brown is the consistent threat, with 76 receptions for 1,128 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jett is the burner, with 20 catches for a team-leading 17.8-yard average. And veteran Andre Rison figures into the mix with 41 receptions for 606 yards.

"Jett can hurt you on the deep ball," Starks said. "Rison can hurt you anywhere along the line and Brown can hurt you with his crossing routes. It's going to be a battle with all of the receivers."

Brown, though, is the main target. He surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the eighth straight year, second only to San Francisco's Jerry Rice (11).

"Tim is the consummate receiver," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He gives you a complete game."

The wild card of the passing game is journeyman quarterback Rich Gannon. A 13-year veteran, Gannon has had back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and can create difficulties for defenses.

He can beat teams with his arm, finishing as the NFL's seventh-ranked quarterback. But he can elude the pass rush, as well, running for 529 yards this season.

The Ravens' defensive line could make it easier for the defensive backs by pressuring Gannon hard, hurrying him to get rid of the ball. Although he plays well on the run, the Ravens are athletic enough up front to create havoc for him.

If the Ravens can collapse on Gannon, it will be up to their cornerbacks to show their composure against Oakland's veteran receivers.

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