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Thursday, September 26, 2002
Updated: September 27, 1:07 PM ET
Game Plans: Broncos-Ravens

By Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury
Special to

The Baltimore Ravens host the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football (9 ET, ABC).

ESPN analysts Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury break down the game plans of each team.

Jaworski on the Broncos
The Denver Broncos have built a reputation as an offensive team under coach Mike Shanahan, but their defense has led the way through the first three weeks. Breaking down the Broncos' defense this week, I was impressed with their overall speed, quickness, athleticism, intelligence and discipline. I'm not surprised that defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes has the group playing well, because it is his second year leading the Denver defense and the players have a better understanding of his system.

Offensively, the running game will fuel the Broncos. Brian Griese is a system quarterback; if the running game is working well, he can be effective. I still don't believe he can throw the ball 40-45 times a game and carry a football team. But if the components are in place around him, Griese is a good quarterback who can have success against Baltimore on Monday night.

Five keys for the Broncos:
1. Blitz Redman: The Broncos need to force Ravens quarterback Chris Redman, a first-year starter, into making mistakes. Every young quarterback sees jersey color first, although he looks down the field reading the safeties, the buzz system and the corners. The minute the opposing team's color flashes in front of his eyes, he has a tendency to break down or attempt to get rid of the football. The Broncos must get people in his face quickly, whether it is Trevor Pryce off the edge or one of their fast linebackers blitzing. They will blitz up the middle, force Redman to see color and throw the ball early.

2. Tight secondary coverage: To blitz effectively, the Broncos need tight coverage from their secondary. Too often I see a team blitz while the corners are playing 10 yards off the receiver, allowing the quarterback to hit a receiver on a quick hitch or quick slant. The Broncos need to play tight coverage on the Ravens' receivers, who won't run by people.

3. Stay with the run: At times, the Ravens defense will shut the Broncos' running game down, but that doesn't mean the Broncos should quit running and just start throwing the ball. They want to commit to the run, using rookie Clinton Portis, Olandis Gary or Mike Anderson. If they work the running backs, the big plays will come off play-action passing. Portis is getting better every week. He will be a terrific back in the NFL. He has good vision and instincts, and he is a finisher.

4. Stop Lewis: When a team is struggling to find an offensive identity and trying to win a game, it will try to slow the game down with the running game. What the Ravens will do to take the pressure off Redman is run Jamal Lewis. The Broncos want to focus on stopping him so they can get their offense back on the field. Coming off the knee injury, Lewis looks close to where he was two years ago, but he's not quite the same. Normally, a player will regain his agility the second year back, and that is probably the case with Lewis.

5. Protect Griese: He needs the running game working and a bit of a cushion to step and throw the football. Griese doesn't have the big gun like Brett Favre, Aaron Brooks and Donovan McNabb. He needs to plant the back foot, step and deliver the football. To do that, Griese needs good protection to feel comfortable in the pocket..

Salisbury on the Ravens
Baltimore is not nearly the confident team it was the past two years, when it won one Super Bowl and contended for another. Because the Ravens lost a ton of players as salary-cap casualties in the offseason, they are a shell of their former selves.

They still have some competitive players left over from their Super Bowl team, including Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Chris McAlister. Even though they are limited, the Ravens will continue to play hard and battle any team, including the Broncos on Monday night. While the Ravens have the No. 7-ranked defense in the league, the offense has been among the worst, averaging only 3.5 points a game. They will need to score much more than that if they hope to beat Denver at home.

Five keys for the Ravens:
1. Protect Redman: The Denver linebackers are as good as any group in football. John Mobley, Al Wilson and Ian Gold are fast, aggressive and physical, and they can blitz, play zone and excel playing in space. At the same time, the Ravens have to deal with Trevor Pryce outside. They will have to decide which player to double-team so they can keep the pressure off young quarterback Chris Redman. If they choose to deal with Pryce, then they are taking a chance with the linebackers. The Ravens will continue their scoring struggles if Redman gets his brains beat out.

2. Slow down the run: Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan may be the best offensive play-caller in the NFL. He will mix in the run, using Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary. They will run traps, sweeps, gut plays and throw screens to the backs. The Ravens, who are fourth against the run, have to slow down the Denver backs. If the Broncos average five yards a carry, it could be a long night for the Ravens, who will then have to deal with Denver's play-action passing game. Lewis, still one of the game's best linebackers, needs to lead the Ravens' charge against the run.

3. Finding a playmaker: Because the Ravens are having such difficulty scoring points, someone has to make a play. Whether it is Travis Taylor making a great catch down the field, Jamal Lewis breaking a long touchdown run or Redman throwing for three touchdowns, a player needs to rise up and be a playmaker. The Ravens lack leaders at the offensive skill positions. Someone needs to take responsibility and assert himself instead of standing around and waiting for someone else to make a play.

4. Score 24 points: The Ravens can't win the game scoring fewer than three touchdowns. I don't care how they manufacture points; it could be done on offense, defense or special teams. Denver will score at least three touchdowns, and maybe even more. The Ravens need to score points -- somehow, someway. Even though they are playing at home, the Ravens players can start getting booed early if Baltimore can't score.

5. No turnovers: They can't turn the football over. That doesn't mean the Ravens need to limit their turnovers to one or two; that means zero. Against an undefeated Denver team, they need to protect the football and can't allow the Broncos to have extra scoring opportunities, especially with a short field. The Ravens have turned the ball over only twice in two games, but the top three turnover teams in the league -- Minnesota, Detroit and Pittsburgh -- are a combined 0-8.