Broncos Preview: Ravens Pass Rushers Licking Their Chops

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The Ravens haven't put up the sack numbers that an offseason focus would suggest, but that could – and should – change this weekend against the Denver Broncos.

Considering all the circumstances surrounding Denver's pass-heavy offense, the Ravens' players believe the opportunity is ripe for the sacking of quarterback Kyle Orton.

"With the percentage of how much they pass the ball, this is one where you'd definitely be licking your chops," said starting linebacker Jameel McClain. "That's for anybody on the defensive side of the ball.

"This could be our game to get those sacks."

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The Broncos certainly open themselves up to sacks.

Over the past two games, Orton has dropped back 50 and 57 times, respectively. Their offensive line allowed six sacks to the Tennessee Titans last week.

And if the Ravens can cover Denver's quartet of talented receivers – Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and rookie Demaryius Thomas – Baltimore's pass rushers will have a chance to close, something they haven't done this year.

Through four games, the Ravens only own seven sacks, led by linebacker Terrell Suggs' 2 ½. Last season, Baltimore boasted 10 sacks at the quarter pole.

"I think we've left three sacks each game on the field," Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison said of his unit's 2010 performance. "There were two times last game where if the guy would have stayed high like he was supposed to – he just got a little anxious – there was going to be a free hit on the quarterback.

"They've just got to keep going like they're going. We just have to execute our blitzes a little bit better and our pressures. When a guy is one-on-one, we've got to make sure we beat them."

The Broncos will be more hamstrung with an anemic rushing attack that won't be able to keep the Ravens honest, as Denver Head Coach Josh McDaniels ruled out top running back Knowshown Moreno for the game with a hamstring injury.

With or without Moreno, the Broncos own the NFL's last-place ground game, averaging only 55.0 yards per contest.

The Ravens aren't taking those statistics for granted, but they do realize that if there was a time to jump on an opposing signal-caller, this weekend would be it.

They can do so by keeping their pass-rushing fundamentals in mind.

"Sacks just come when the time is right," McClain noted. "Sometimes, you're one step away, and others, you're one step too fast. I think when they come for us, it's going to be a flood. We just need to put it all together."

Regardless of the Ravens' dearth of sacks – while remaining the league's best in passing yards allowed (119.0) – they are happy with their pocket presence.

It's the sacks that must occur.

"You have to get pressure because that forces the ball to come out quickly, that forces things to happen at a pace that they really don't want them to happen," said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh.

McClain added: "We're getting a lot of hits and pressure, and with the job our defensive backs are doing, we need to close those out."
Three Things For A Ravens Win

Get Ray Rice Going
Rice hasn't been the fantasy stalwart fans have wanted this year, but that is largely a combination of the Ravens' focus on the passing attack and a slate of stout defenses. Rice definitely has it in him, and it's just a matter of time before he breaks a big game. Don't be surprised if Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron dials up No. 27 a lot on Sunday.

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Return, Return, Return
The Ravens can take advantage of Denver's porous coverage teams, which are the fourth-worst in the NFL. Last weekend, the Tennessee Titans returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. With Jalen Parmele (kickoffs) and Tom Zbikowski (punts) yet to break a big one, the Ravens need to show up on special teams to create short fields – or score.

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Force Orton To Make Mistakes
Not only is Orton the league leader in passing yardage this season, with 1,419, but he is taking care of the football, throwing only three interceptions despite 175 drop-backs. The Ravens need to get their hands on an interception or two and actually secure the pick, which has been an issue in 2010.

Ravens                          Category                           Broncos

3-1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2010 Record . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2-2

Won 2. . . . . . . . . . . . Current Streak . . . . . . . . . . . .Won 1

  1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Scored . . . . . . . . . . . . .87
  1. . . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . . . . .9
  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .3
  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .6
  1. . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns on Returns . . . . . . . . . .0

55 . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Against . . . . . . . . . . . . .85

  1. . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . . . . .10
  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .1
  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .8
  1. . . . . . . . . . . TDs Allowed by Return . . . . . . . . . . .0

31:14. . . . . . . . . . . Time of Posession Avg.. . . . . . . . . . .33:17

-7. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Turnover Ratio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .+1

55.6%. . . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. For . . . . . . . . .35.0%

36.4%. . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. Against . . . . . . .62.5%

21.7. . . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . .27.1

28.7. . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . .29.4

5.3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8.3

8.0. . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . . .15.1

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