Matchup To Watch

Ravens Vs. Bengals

November 30, 2006

Ravens' secondary vs. Bengals' receivers

George Kokinis, the Ravens' pro personnel director, sizes up tonight's critical matchup against the Bengals:

The players

With three former Pro Bowl players in the secondary, the Ravens have the ninth-best pass defense in the NFL. Only one quarterback (the Carolina Panthers' Jake Delhomme) has thrown for 300 yards against the Ravens this season.

The starting defensive backfield (cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle and safeties Ed Reed and Dawan Landry) have combined for 11 interceptions and three touchdowns scored. McAlister leads the Ravens in interceptions (four) and passes defended (20).

The Bengals' top three receivers (Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry) are a big reason Cincinnati has one of the most dangerous deep passing attacks in the league. This trio has totaled 19 of the Bengals' 32 touchdowns this season.

Johnson leads the NFL in receiving yards (1,055) and is fourth in receptions (64). Houshmandzadeh is second on the team in catches (55), and Henry is second among active Bengals in yards per catch (15.6).

What to watch

The biggest change in the Bengals since they played the Ravens is their commitment to getting the ball downfield. The problem you have with Cincinnati is who do you stop? Do you put your best cover corner on Houshmandzadeh and double Johnson? Then, what do you do with Henry, who is just as much of a threat downfield?

Johnson and Henry are both downfield threats because of their speed. Houshmandzadeh might not be as fast as they are, but he has big-play capability because of his height advantage and his ability to get to the football.

The Bengals' offense has taken the attitude that it has to win games, and when the ball is in the air, the receivers are going up very aggressively for it. As a defense, you have to match that competitiveness.

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