Bears At Ravens

September 09, 2001|By Jamison Hensley

PSINet Stadium, 1 p.m., Ch. 45

Ravens rushing vs. Bears run defense -- BEARS

The Ravens' running game sputtered in the preseason with 3.9 yards per carry. RB Terry Allen receives the start and will try to improve upon his two-game preseason total (16 rushes, 37 yards). The Ravens will turn to Jason Brookins to change the pace and to Moe Williams in certain third-down situations. The effectiveness of the run game boils down to how the Ravens' interior linemen take care of the Bears' beefy tackles, Ted Washington and Keith Traylor.

Ravens passing vs. Bears pass defense -- RAVENS

This is where the Ravens are looking to show the difference from last year's championship team. New Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac was the only consistent offensive weapon in the preseason, making plays that Trent Dilfer never could. Then it comes down to the receivers making catches and the line providing adequate protection against an average Chicago pass rush. The Bears' defense was constructed more to stop the run than the pass.

Bears rushing vs. Ravens run defense -- RAVENS

Does anyone want to trade places with the Bears' James Allen? He is the last running back to crack 100 yards against the Ravens - it occurred Dec. 20, 1998 - which makes him the prime target of a record-setting defense. Allen doesn't use his size (5-10, 215) well and lacks burst, which spells trouble against a rapid-fire linebacker like Ray Lewis.

Bears passing vs. Ravens pass defense -- RAVENS

The status of Ravens cornerback Duane Starks is a game-time decision, yet that has little effect in this instance. Bears quarterback Shane Matthews is a strong decision-maker but won't beat teams with his arm. Go-to receiver Marcus Robinson, the Bears' only playmaker, is expected to play after missing the preseason with a lower-back injury. The rest of the group tails off drastically with Marty Booker, Dez White and David Terrell, the Bears' first-round pick.

Special teams -- RAVENS

The Ravens clearly have the edge in the return game. Jermaine Lewis returned two punts for touchdowns in the regular-season finale and then brought back a kickoff for a score in the Super Bowl. He averaged 16.1 yards on punt returns in the regular season and 37.8 yards on kickoff returns in the postseason. The Bears counter with Glyn Milburn returning punts (8.6) and kickoffs (23.3). Both punters - the Ravens' Kyle Richardson and the Bears' Brad Maynard - specialize in kicks inside the 20-yard line.

Intangibles -- RAVENS

The Ravens will take the field for the first time in a game that counts since capturing the Super Bowl. That emotion will be evident in the first quarter. Losing star running back Jamal Lewis has only increased the Ravens' motivation to prove skeptics wrong. The Bears knocked off such playoff teams as Indianapolis and Tampa Bay last year, so the Ravens won't be looking past this homecoming.

Prediction -- RAVENS

Look for Grbac to hit enough big plays downfield and for the Ravens' defense to dominate an overmatched Chicago offense. The Ravens are back in town with a 20-0 rout.

Breakdown

Records (2000): Bears 5-11; Ravens 16-4.

Line: Ravens by 10.

Vs. spread (2000): Bears 7-8, Ravens 14-5.

Series: Bears lead 1-0.

Last meeting: Bears won, 24-3, on Dec. 20, 1998, in Chicago.

Quick hits: RB James Allen is fourth Bears player to gain 1,400 yards combined in a season -- 1,120 rushing and 291 receiving in 2000. ... Ravens' Shannon Sharpe needs 126 receiving yards to pass Jackie Smith for second place on the NFL career yardage list for tight ends. With 188, he can pass Ravens senior VP of football operations Ozzie Newsome for first.

Stat to watch: 7.7 -- average number of points allowed by the Ravens against teams with losing records last year.

Injuries

BEARS: Questionable: DT Alfonso Boone (hamstring); TE Dustin Lyman (ankle); Probable: WR Marcus Robinson (back); RB Anthony Thomas (knee).

RAVENS: Out: CB Gary Baxter (knee); T Leon Searcy (arm). Doubtful: CB Duane Starks (knee). Questionable: CB Chris McAlister (ankle). Probable: DT Tony Siragusa (knee); T Sammy Williams (chest).

Inside slant

Ravens scout George Kokinis sizes up the Bears:

Strength: The middle of their defense is tough, with tackles Ted Washington and Keith Traylor, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and two quality safeties in Tony Parrish and Mike Brown.

Weakness: Lack of experience playing together. It's a young team, but not so much from an age standpoint. The offensive line is the only unit that has been together.

Key matchup: Ravens' coverage teams vs. Bears' punt and kickoff returners. Glyn Milburn is an established returner in this league, with good quickness and the ability for a big play. R.W. McQuarters is very explosive, and Jerry Azumah is just a live wire.

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