The pass-rushing prowess of Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl outside linebacker Tamba Hali tends to put an offense on high alert.
Although Hali has only generated nine tackles and one sack this season, the Ravens haven't forgotten how much trouble he gave them during a 30-7 AFC wild-card playoff victory over the Chiefs two seasons ago.
Hali recorded seven tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and a pass deflection in that game, primarily rushing against left tackle Michael Oher. Oher gets another shot at Hali on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
"Great player, has a lot of different moves, has speed, power to bull rush," Oher said of Hali, who had a dozen sacks and four forced fumbles last season. "He's capable of a variety of things. Whatever he does, he's going to do it fairly well."
It's a case of mutual respect between Oher and Hali, who missed the season opener due to a one-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.
The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Hali wasn't inclined to brag about getting past Oher in the playoff game, or make assumptions that it's a precursor to how Sunday will unfold.
"Great athlete, good player, knows how to punch his hands," Hali said of Oher during a conference call. "He gets to the spot, forces you to make decisions, protects the inside very well, strong.
"Hopefully I'll be able to use what I was able to do in prior years, but this year is a little different. It will be interesting how he and I will match up for the entire game."
Hali is off to a quiet start, but history suggests he'll rebound strongly. For his career, he has 54.5 sacks and 22 forced fumbles.
Oher had his worst game of the season against the Cleveland Browns, committing three penalties on two holding calls and one false start.
"We just need to continue to get better," Oher said. "We have to cut down penalties and get better in a lot of different aspects."
Sunday could be tight ends' rebound day
For the first time since the start of last season, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson were both shut out with no catches against Cleveland.
Chances are that scenario won't play out again against Kansas City, which has surrendered touchdowns to tight ends in three of four games.
And Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson (groin) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) are both injured.
"When talented players are out of the lineup, that plays to our advantage a little bit," Pitta said. "But we'll see who's out there on Sunday and see if we can take advantage."
Vulnerable up the middle
Chiefs lineman Ryan Lilja will be making his second consecutive start at center against the Ravens.
A converted left guard who had never started at center before, Lilja replaced Rodney Hudson, who's out for the season with a broken leg.
Nose tackle Terrence Cody said the defensive line has spent a lot of time studying Lilja.
"Whoever lines up in front of him has to win that one-on-one matchup," Cody said.
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel praised Lilja.
"You had no issues with the quarterback-center exchange, shotgun snaps," Crennel said. "He handled it very well."
D. Reed on the mend
Intent on beating the odds and returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered last December, wide receiver-kick returner David Reed is convinced he's ready to be activated from the physically unable to perform list in a few weeks.
"I'm right there," Reed said. "Lately, I'm feeling better than ever. I told coach [John Harbaugh] that. I'm ahead of schedule."
Reed has a three-week window after the first six games to either return to practice and be placed on the active roster or go on injured reserve. He's sprinting and cutting, regaining confidence in his knee.
"I trust it, it's good," Reed said. "I can't wait. Once I get out there, I'll show them."
Different outlook for Cody
It's been a major adjustment time for Cody, and not in the way he wanted.
Beaten out for the starting job by veteran Ma'ake Kemoeatu during the preseason while dealing with a slight hip injury, Cody is now a reserve after starting every game last season.
Cody has played 79 snaps in four games with five tackles, one more than Kemoeatu, who has played 132 snaps.
"I'm staying patient," Cody said. "It really isn't a big issue who starts because the playing time is similar. It's a long season and anything can happen. We're winning, and I'm doing my part."