Matchup To Watch

Ravens' B.J. Sams vs. Bears' Bobby Wade

Ravens vs. Bears

October 23, 2005

George Kokinis, the Ravens' pro personnel director, sizes up the top matchup against the Bears :

The players

An undrafted free agent in 2004, Sams set a franchise record last season with 1,826 combined return yards. He scored two touchdowns on punt returns as a rookie. Sams broke a season-long 51-yard return last Sunday and now leads the AFC with a 13.1-yard average.

Wade, a fifth-round pick in the 2003 draft, is in his first year as the Bears' primary punt returner. He returned just two punts in his rookie season before breaking out this year. After being inactive for the season opener, Wade has gone on to lead the NFL with a 14.7-yard average.

What to watch

Wade can make one or two players miss on his own, whether it's running through an arm tackle or making an instinctive cut. He doesn't have the straight-line, sub-4.3 speed. He's more like Pittsburgh's Antwaan Randle El in that he doesn't have a great 40-yard dash time, but you put the pads on and he's the fastest guy on the field.

The biggest improvement in Sams is his adhering to the system. He has a better understanding of where his blocks are coming from rather than just relying on his natural ability. Like many good returners, Sams depends on his blockers but has that extra vision of where the help is coming from in terms of blocking schemes.

Game facts Today, 4:15 p.m.--Soldier Field, Chicago -- Chs. 13, 9--Line: Bears by 1-- Records: Ravens 2-3, Bears 2-3

Matchup

Vs. spread -- Ravens 2-3, Bears 3-2.

Series -- Tied 1-1.

Last meeting -- Ravens won, 17-6, on Sept. 9, 2001, at Baltimore.

NFL rankings

Ravens offense -- No. 22 (rush No. 19, pass No. 19)

Bears defense -- No. 3 (rush No. 4, pass No. 9)

Bears offense -- No. 28 (rush No. 12, pass No. 30)

Ravens defense -- No. 2 (rush No. 7, pass No. 3)

Ravens injuries

OUT -- QB Kyle Boller (toe); FB Ovie Mughelli (ankle); S Ed Reed (ankle); DE Tony Weaver (toe).

DOUBTFUL -- WR Mark Clayton (ankle).

QUESTIONABLE -- FB Alan Ricard (calf).

PROBABLE -- DT Dwan Edwards (forearm); C Mike Flynn (ankle/toe); LB Ray Lewis (thigh).

Bears injuries

OUT -- QB Rex Grossman (ankle).

DOUBTFUL -- G Ruben Brown (chest).

QUESTIONABLE -- P Brad Maynard (calf).

PROBABLE -- RB Thomas Jones (knee); DT Ian Scott (side); T John Tait (ankle).

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