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Preview: Chargers at Ravens

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Sep 30, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/preview?gameId=20061001033">Fox Sports</a>

    <img width="300" height="188" title="Charger defenders gang tackle Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis." alt="Charger defenders gang tackle Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis." src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/030922bal/JBsdBaltA209388x39.sized.jpg" />

    San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers knows the NFL isn't as easy as his first two starts showed.

    The Baltimore Ravens hope to prove him exactly right.

    Rivers gets his first start against an elite NFL defense Sunday as the Chargers make a cross-country trek to play the Ravens in a matchup of unbeaten teams.

    Rivers, who became the starter when San Diego let Drew Brees leave via free agency, had little trouble as the Chargers opened the season by beating Oakland and Tennessee - two of the NFL's seven winless teams - before their bye week. Rivers has yet to be sacked, and has the luxury of a star running back in LaDainian Tomlinson as well as a defense that came within 3:09 of posting consecutive shutouts to start the season.

    "You can only play who's out there," said Rivers, who has thrown for 343 yards and two touchdowns in the two games. "I think we've done what we had to do in both games. I'm pleased with how we played, but at the same time, we can't stay there. I think we understand the task at hand that's coming up."

    Rivers has done well when called upon, completing 71.7 percent of his throws and not committing a turnover.

    After throwing just 11 passes in the season opener against the Raiders, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer gave Rivers more freedom as San Diego rolled to a 40-7 win over the Titans last week. The fourth overall pick of the 2004 draft completed 25 of 35 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown in that game, but knows full well the Ravens defense will provide his biggest challenge to date.

    "It's no slight to our competition, but the fact of the matter is, what we're getting ready to face, initially in Baltimore and then as we continue through the season, is going to be tougher," Rivers said. "We don't look ahead, but we're not dummies, either. We know the grind we have ahead."

    The Ravens have limited opponents to 197.3 yards per game - second in the NFL behind San Diego - and are tied for the league lead with 16 sacks and 11 takeaways.

    Baltimore, though, may be without two former Pro Bowl defenders for this contest. Safety Ed Reed (foot) and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (hamstring) were held out of practice Friday, and both are listed as questionable.

    Rivers' performance against Tennessee has helped Schottenheimer gain confidence in the third-year quarterback and consider employing more balance on offense instead of heavily relying on Tomlinson.

    "He's done a nice job making decisions. He recognizes, as we all do, that sometimes an incompletion isn't a bad play," said Schottenheimer, who is tied for eighth with Chuck Knox on the NFL's all-time wins list with 193. "We have to shed the reputation of not being willing to throw it. As long as we continue to take care of the ball, I think everything else will fall into place on the offensive side."

    Tomlinson has rushed for 202 yards in the two victories, but had only 19 carries in Week 2 after grinding out 131 yards on 31 rushes in San Diego's 27-0 victory Sept. 11 over Oakland.

    Like the Chargers, the Ravens (3-0) beat up on the Raiders during their fast start against a weak early schedule, and they have conceded just 20 points this season. Baltimore has limited opponents to 1.8 yards per carry and 103 rushing yards, tackling the ball carrier for a loss 21 times in 58 attempts.

    Yet, there is only so much a defense can do. In years past, the Ravens defense often saw its work unappreciated and undone by a stagnant offense that struggled to score. The addition of veteran quarterback Steve McNair has finally given that offense direction and accountability, something Ravens coach Brian Billick knows the defense relishes.

    "It showed we've got each other's back in a way that might not have happened before," Billick said. "Not that they didn't want to have their back, so to speak. But (now) they can actually do something with it consistently and predictably in terms of some of the talent and experience we have at the quarterback position."

    McNair's poise was on display in last Sunday's 15-14 win at Cleveland. After cornerback Chris McAlister gave the Ravens a chance to win with an interception in his end zone to thwart a potential game-clinching touchdown for the Browns, McNair went 6-of-9 for 52 yards on the ensuing drive to set up Matt Stover's go-ahead 52-yard field goal with 20 seconds to play.

    The Ravens erased a 14-3 fourth-quarter deficit to remain unbeaten.

    "If we had won it any other way, it wouldn't mean as much," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Defense makes a play to stop them from scoring. Offense moves it to field goal position. Then special teams, with Automatic Stover, wins in the end."

    This is the first game between the teams since the Ravens won 24-10 at San Diego on Sept. 21, 2003, when Jamal Lewis rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown for Baltimore.

    The former Pro Bowler has yet to rush for 100 yards this season, though he has reached at least 70 in all three games and is averaging 4.0 per carry after a career-low 3.4 average last season.
     

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