Blockers want revenge by sackful


Offensive line gave up 7 to Browns in Oct. loss

Pro Football

November 17, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Through their first five games, the Cleveland Browns' pass rush mustered nine sacks.

Then came Oct. 21, when the Browns feasted on a makeshift offensive line and got to Elvis Grbac, who left in the third quarter with bruised ribs, and Randall Cunningham seven times. A season high both for the Browns' defense and the Ravens' offense, it's the one statistic that best explains Cleveland's 24-14 win over Baltimore.

"One time they [the Browns] rushed three guys, we had six blocking and they sacked the quarterback," tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "That happened twice. Obviously we had some flaws in our protection, and missed assignments. For whatever reason, we weren't ready to play offensively. We won't be in that situation again."

Edwin Mulitalo was absent with a knee injury, and Kipp Vickers started at left guard. A career utility man who came into this season as the Ravens' starter at right guard, Vickers has since been moved to right tackle.

Left tackle Jonathan Ogden and center Mike Flynn have been the only constants on the offensive line, and the latter is playing with a torn ligament in his snapping (right) thumb.

"Guys are getting familiar with each other," Flynn said. "We've been in some hostile environments and had to do some things on the run."

If there's any group on the Ravens that will benefit from playing five of their last seven games at PSINet Stadium, it's the offensive line.

"In Tennessee last week, I can't hear the snap count," Vickers said. "That plays into it. That plays a big factor in what we can do. When you're on the road and dealing with a loud crowd, it's a disadvantage. That's why they stress home-field advantage in the playoffs, because you have your crowd behind you."

First start for Thomas

The defensive line's depth has also been tested. With Rob Burnett out with a calf injury, second-year pro Adalius Thomas will get his first NFL start at left end.

"You can't feel sorry because this guy's nicked, that guy's nicked," coach Brian Billick said. "For Adalius Thomas, [tackle] Kelly Gregg, it's the chance of a lifetime."

Thomas' thoughts on his first start?

"Of course you change your approach a little bit," Thomas said. "It's the same game ... I'm just going to be out there a little more."

Virus sidelines Modell

Ravens owner Art Modell has missed watching practice the past two days because of a viral infection. A team spokesman said the illness should not prevent him from attending tomorrow's game against his old team.

Extra points

The Ravens' defense ended its interception drought at four games when Duane Starks picked off holder Craig Hentrich on a botched Tennessee field goal, but opposing quarterbacks have gone 170 attempts without an interception. ... Jermaine Lewis and Larry Webster, former Maryland stars, will try to catch the Terps' telecast at N.C. State. Webster was on Maryland's last bowl team, in 1990.

Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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