Stopping Brandon Marshall

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For most of the offseason, many Ravens fans clamored for their team to trade with the Denver Broncos for then-disgruntled receiver Brandon Marshall.

This weekend, Marshall actually will come to Baltimore, only it won't be in purple and black.

The undefeated Broncos bring a potentially deadly passing attack to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, one that is ranked 12th in the league with 236.0 yards per game.

Lately, that unit has been deadly, as quarterback Kyle Orton has thrown for at least 229 yards in each of the last three games. With 29 receptions for 332 yards and four touchdowns this year, Marshall is Orton's featured target.

And at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he is another big receiver in what seems to be a weekly occurrence for the Ravens.

"This league is full of great receivers," said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who also noted the other talented Broncos receivers in Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokely. "That's what you're faced with week in and week out.

"Marshall is an outstanding receiver. He's got great size. The thing that Marshall has done a really good job of is when he catches [the football], that's when he becomes very dangerous. He's like a tight end or a running back running with the football after he catches it. He's very physical with the ball."

Marshall's size and hands are both elite, and Baltimore's defensive backs will have to get their hands on him early and wait for help to bring him down.

Case in point: In Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys, Marshall leapt high for a tough 15-yard throw from Orton on the right sideline, picked up a block to run to the middle of the field, then broke through three tacklers while heading back to the right pylon before crossing the goal line.

The result was a stunning, game-winning 51-yard touchdown with just under two minutes left.

"He's definitely a man," said Terrell Suggs, who is a man himself at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds. "They might have to line me up out there on him maybe just to get a little jam. But, you know he's also playing really great football. You saw him turn a 15-yard play into a [51]-yarder.

"The kid has tremendous talent. His physical attributes are something of a video game. So, it's going to take a whole defense. It's not just on our corners or our secondary; it's the whole defense's responsibility to make sure he doesn't have a great game."

When Marshall expressed his desire of a trade out of Denver this offseason when the Broncos didn't rework his contract, rumors flew that the Ravens were interested in him. That sparked an avalanche of cries from Baltimore fans to swing a deal.

Marshall, while talented, continued to pout. Local Denver reporters caught him on camera batting down passes on purpose during one training camp practice, and Marshall was suspended throughout the preseason.

While Denver coach Josh McDaniels said those matters have been resolved, the Ravens are still flying high with their current crop of receivers.

Instead of pursuing a trade, the Ravens brought in free agent Kelley Washington and decided they were comfortable with Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Washington and Demetrius Williams as their primary wideouts.

In addition, running back Ray Rice has become a major threat in the passing game with a team-leading 33 catches for 325 yards.

"I knew our guys were going to do a great job," said quarterback Joe Flacco. "They've always done a great job, and I knew that as we progressed in our second year in the offense that we were going to become better and a harder to stop offense. And I think that has shown. We've evolved as a group, and therefore everybody is playing a little bit better."

Still, it is a test for the Ravens. Their secondary, including 5-foot-11 cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington, have been exploited by the likes of the 6-foot-5 Vincent Jackson (San Diego), 6-foot-4 Sidney Rice (Minnesota) and 6-foot-1 Chad Ochocinco (Cincinnati).

Both Jackson and Rice topped 140 yards, and Ochocinco notched 94.

"It's another challenge for us," said Foxworth. "Most of the issues deal with being consistent and making plays all the time. We kind of dropped the ball on specific instances, and that hurt us.

"He's a great run after the catch guy, so it's important to tackle him as a group, and when you get your hands on him, hold on tight."

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