Ravens gear for Kitna, Part II

Demps, recast secondary are intent on Bengals QB being stopped this time

He threw for 3 TDs in Oct. win

Nolan says `some issues we needed to correct'

December 05, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Aware of what his prospective role with the Ravens would be heading into this season, Will Demps had no problem with it.

Maybe he had a feeling his time would come again.

Demps started 10 games as a rookie a year ago at free safety and will start his sixth game there this season when the Ravens play host to the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North lead Sunday.

Demps recorded his first interception against the San Francisco 49ers, and it now appears to be his job to lose.

"This year, knowing what they wanted to do with Corey [Fuller] and his veteran leadership, I had to understand," he said. "I knew if my number was called, I had to be ready for the at-bat. From here on out, I take this as an opportunity."

Demps and the rest of the Ravens' secondary will look to better their previous showing against the Bengals. In a 34-26 win on Oct. 19, Cincinnati quarterback Jon Kitna threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns, the most devastating being an 82-yard reception by Chad Johnson off the hands of Ed Reed.

Kitna also exposed the middle of the defense on a 45-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Schobel in the first quarter. Those are two of the top four yardage plays given up by the Ravens' defense this season.

The completion to Johnson looked to be a sure interception for Reed, but the Ravens are not just chalking that play up to bad luck.

"Do not dismiss it because it will happen again if you dismiss anything," Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "Just like our Seattle game [a 44-41 comeback win], we don't dismiss that game. That game is very important to us in a way of maturity and growth. Things happen for a reason.

"In our first game with [the Bengals], there were some issues we needed to correct."

Back then, Demps saw little playing time and Gary Baxter, who will likely remain at cornerback the rest of the season, was at safety while Fuller started at cornerback.

Fuller will still get a decent number of snaps Sunday with the Bengals finding recent success out of their three-receiver set featuring Johnson, Peter Warrick and emerging rookie Kelley Washington.

"I'm on that hot seat every week out there," Fuller said. "I'm out there every week by myself, and when you get my age [32] in the game, they feel like they can test you."

With the Bengals' offense - and Kitna in particular - soaring, they probably feel as though they can test anyone in the Ravens' secondary.

Johnson seemed giddy about his upcoming duel with Chris McAlister, who has been playing as well as any cornerback in the league. Asked whether he is looking forward to facing McAlister, Johnson crowed, "Of course, my baby, McAlister baby."

McAlister had one of his best games last week, primarily facing San Francisco's Terrell Owens and holding the perennial Pro Bowl player to 23 yards on three catches. McAlister was more reserved in talking about this Sunday's matchup than Johnson.

"I'm not worried about matching up against Johnson," McAlister said. "I didn't match up with him the last time we played him. Maybe I will this week. It's just another game. It was a big deal about Terrell Owens, it was a big deal about Torry Holt, you guys make a big deal out of everything."

As good as Johnson is, Kitna has been even better recently, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions over his past three games.

Johnson and Warrick have combined for three 100-yard receiving games during that stretch, while Washington has added a couple of touchdowns.

The Ravens' secondary, though, except for a 17-minute stretch against the Seahawks that produced five touchdowns, has fared well against some of the league's top receiving corps.

Against Kansas City, Denver, St. Louis and San Francisco (all four in the top 13 in total offense), only the Chiefs' tandem of Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison combined for 100 receiving yards.

"There a few lapses here and there," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They know where they have played well, and they know where they haven't. That was the nice thing about last week, to see them respond knowing the mistakes they made against Seattle."

Demps had something to do with that. He started and played every defensive snap against San Francisco, helping the pass defense produce four interceptions.

"Every week, every game, I have to put that pressure on me because I don't want to be that weak link," Demps said. "I don't want to make any mistakes. I want to make everyone jell around each other.

"We've been there before when me and Ed were rookies. With us there, it's a little old school."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) vs. Ravens (7-5)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3 1/2

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