Ravens Vs. Giants

January 28, 2001|By Ken Murray

The team with the fewest turnovers probably will win this game. That comes down to the quarterbacks -- Kerry Collins of the Giants and Trent Dilfer of the Ravens -- throwing against two pressure defenses. Give the Ravens 10 points off those turnovers and call it a 16-6 Baltimore victory.

The Ravens have only one touchdown drive of more than four plays in the postseason, and only one scoring possession of more than five minutes.

The Ravens have allowed just one rushing touchdown in the past 27 quarters.

Keys for the Ravens

1. Get to Giants QB Kerry Collins early with the pass rush. If Ravens tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa penetrate up the middle, Collins will have to get rid of the ball quicker than he likes. If the Ravens sack Collins early, they may invoke the intimidation factor.

2. Avoid turnovers. This offense is charged with not committing the killer turnover. Through the playoffs, the Ravens have just two. QB Trent Dilfer can afford to play conservatively as long as he's not trailing.

3. Achieve consistency in the running game. RB Jamal Lewis, critical to ball control, is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry in the past two games. The Giants were second to the Ravens in run defense.

4. Do not allow the Giants' shifting and motion to rob the Ravens' defense of aggressiveness. The Giants have some kind of movement on almost every offensive play in an attempt to disrupt the defense.

5. Throw the ball on first down. The Ravens cannot be predictable in the passing game and throw only on third down. To keep the pass rush off Dilfer, they will need to throw on first down.

When the Ravens have the ball

Look for a heavy dose of RB Jamal Lewis, healthy again after a sore knee held him to 3.1 yards per rush in the playoffs. The Ravens will mix in Priest Holmes as a change-of-pace back that the Giants will have to respect. Lewis will be vital in establishing ball control.

The Giants were second to the Ravens in stopping the run this season. DT Keith Hamilton is underrated. The linebackers, featuring Pro Bowl pick Jessie Armstead and MLB Mike Barrow, are good tacklers. The Giants allowed just two running plays of more than 20 yards during the regular season.

New York can put pressure on the passer, too. The Giants had 44 sacks this season, nine more than the Ravens. QB Trent Dilfer won't take many chances, but he will look for a matchup he can take advantage of in the passing game. That usually means TE Shannon Sharpe, averaging 45 yards per catch in the playoffs.

The Giants have two big cornerbacks in 6-foot-2 Jason Sehorn, who covers the best receiver, and 6-3 Dave Thomas, but they are vulnerable to the big play. It will be up to WR Qadry Ismail to make those plays; WR Brandon Stokley is more of a possession receiver. Dilfer's job is to stay away from turnovers and capitalize on the field position he gets.

When the Giants have the ball

The Giants have their own change-up package at running back in fleet-footed Tiki Barber (4.7 average carry in the regular season) and power back Ron Dayne (3.4). They run the explosive Barber between the tackles and sometimes line him up wide as a receiver. That will be important if they go to the spread formation. The Giants use multiple formations with a lot of motion, and get to the line quickly to allow time for that shifting.

After Tennessee gained 126 net rushing yards in the divisional playoff, the Ravens held Oakland to 24 yards on 17 carries. They are even tougher to budge down in the red zone. Their defensive line rotation with Larry Webster and Lional Dalton in reserve keeps tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa fresh.

The Giants have a good complement of physical wide receivers in Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. The third wide-out is Joe Jurevicius. QB Kerry Collins spreads the ball around and uses all his weapons in the passing game. Barber had 70 catches, and Pete Mitchell is the pass-receiving tight end.

The Ravens' secondary has played exceptionally well of late, especially CB Duane Starks, who is making the plays he missed earlier in the season. SS Kim Herring should return after missing two games with a high-ankle sprain.

Keys for the Giants

1. Spread the field. The few offenses that hurt the Ravens this season either spread the field or went to the no-huddle, or both. Lining up in a two-tight end, power formation won't get it done.

2. Unload the ball quickly. QB Kerry Collins will not have much time for pass plays to develop. He's got to beat the pass rush with quick, short slants and outlet throws. If he's able to do that, he'll have the potential to go deep later.

3. Get the early lead. Teams that fall behind the Ravens reduce their offensive options greatly. Playing with a lead -- and keeping the pressure on the Ravens' offense -- is crucial.

4. Contain RB Jamal Lewis. If Lewis can get the tough inside yards, the Giants' defense is in trouble. That leads to play-action passes and sets up big plays.

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