Ravens scramble to find some way to contain Vick

Determined defense plans to come at elusive QB with numbers, smarts

October 31, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

When the Ravens go against Michael Vick on Sunday at the Georgia Dome, they'll face something they haven't seen before, perhaps something the NFL has never really seen before.

But the challenge of containing the elusive Atlanta Falcons quarterback doesn't have the Ravens scrambling.

The Ravens' defense spoke yesterday with respect - but not amazement - about the showdown with Vick. The focus is on reality rather than reputation.

"You can't be a spectator and be in awe of him," safety Will Demps said, "or else you'll be watching yourself on SportsCenter, seeing Michael Vick run past you."

Vick has electrified the NFL along with the upstart Falcons (4-3), leading the team in passing (959 yards) and rushing (367). In his six starts this season, he has used jaw-dropping runs and a powerful left arm to account for 66 percent of Atlanta's total offense.

Despite playing without injured linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens (3-4) believe they can handle the Falcons' one-man gang with a double-edged sword, capitalizing on Vick's youth and stamina.

Vick, 22, the top pick of the 2001 draft, would be in his senior season at Virginia Tech if he had stayed in college.

"As he's learning, it benefits us as a defense," outside linebacker Cornell Brown said. "We can move around, make some reads tough for him. That's to our advantage. If we can do that and minimize his run potential, we'll be in good shape."

To his credit, Vick hasn't forced many throws. He is second in the NFC with a 93.4 quarterback rating and hasn't been intercepted in 135 passes.

When told that Vick hasn't been picked off this season, Ravens cornerback Gary Baxter said, "That tells me that he likes to run a lot."

Vick doesn't want to be typecast as a running quarterback.

"I have two weapons: my legs, my arm and my brains," Vick said.

In last Sunday's 37-35 win over the New Orleans Saints, Vick sat out the final two offensive plays, taking himself out because of exhaustion. He earlier had sprained his left thumb and shoulder but said none of the hits he took had anything to do with his exit. He is listed as probable on this week's injury report.

When - or if - the Ravens catch him, they want to test his endurance.

"When you have a chance to get a lick on him, you want to try to get a good lick on him," linebacker Ed Hartwell said. "You've got to hit him."

Game planning for Vick has been an adjustment for the Ravens' defense, which has exclusively gone against pocket passers this season.

There are different strategies when playing against a mobile quarterback, such as:

Make the outside rushers stay in their lanes to keep containment while keeping their heads up and eyes on the quarterback.

Use a linebacker as a "spy" defender in the middle of the field to shadow the quarterback's every move.

Play more zone pass coverage. By playing man coverage, defensive backs often turn their backs to the action when tracking their individual assignments.

The Ravens have considered all those possibilities.

"He is unique so you have to take unconventional approaches to deal with him," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Vick. "You have got to take your thinking and alter it a little bit with the likes that you have never seen."

Said Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan: "He creates a lot more discipline in team defense than a normal player. He's as explosive a guy as I've seen in a long time as far as making something out of absolutely nothing. He can outrun most of your players."

The biggest concern is Vick's game-breaking running ability.

He has averaged 9 yards a carry and has scored four touchdowns. He is coming off back-to-back 91-yard rushing performances.

When asked about a comparison to Vick, Brown could only think of world-class sprinters, saying, "Maurice Greene, Carl Lewis, Ben Johnson. That's about it."

Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan said Vick sprays himself with "Invisible Juice."

"If you're running to Michael Vick and you think you have him," Ravens defensive end Adalius Thomas said, "run some more."

The Ravens say they can negate Vick's strength with strength in numbers.

"I think we have the speed to go after him, but it's going to be a team effort," Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware said. "It's going to take 11 people to chase him down."

Double threat

Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick can beat you with his arm or his legs. He is the second-rated passer in the NFC and leads the Falcons in yards rushing. Passing

Att. .............. Com. ......... Pct. ............ Yds. ..... TD ..... Int. ..... Rat.

135 ............... 84 ........... 62.2 ............. 959 ........ 4 ....... 0 ...... 93.4


Att. .............. Yds. .......... Avg. ............. LG ....... TD

41 ................ 367 ............ 9.0 ............... 44 ......... 4

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