OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens prepare to travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs Sunday, they don’t see a 1-3 team fighting for its life in the AFC West.
Instead, they remember the team from two seasons ago that gave Baltimore everything it could handle in the first half of play before an injury to running back Jamaal Charles crippled the Chiefs and led to a 30-7 win in the Wild Card round of the 2010 playoffs. New head coach Romeo Crennel has replaced Todd Haley since then, but many of the players from that division-winning squad remain in Kansas City.
“Not a lot has changed with the personnel there, so we know what they are capable of,” running back Ray Rice said. “That’s a very dangerous team with a lot of weapons. Like I said, I never really get into a team’s record. I go into every game just preparing for the opponent.”
On the surface, the comments sound polite and standard when a good team is playing an inferior opponent, but the Ravens have made it clear they’re not taking a road trip to Kansas City lightly. In addition to Arrowhead Stadium being one of the more challenging venues in the NFL in which to play, the Chiefs have the league’s fourth-ranked offense and the second-best rushing attack in the league.
Charles is second in the NFL with 415 rushing yards after missing most of the 2011 season with an ACL injury and is known as a dangerous runner in open space. The Chiefs complement his speed with power backs Peyton Hillis and Shaun Draughn.
Kansas City also has the 17th-ranked passing game with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe ranked fourth in the AFC with a team-high 342 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The Chiefs do not rank as favorably defensively — sitting 13th overall in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed per game — but still possess talent in pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as well as talented young safety Eric Berry.
So, why exactly have they dropped three of their first four games?
“They’re a very talented football team,” Harbaugh said. “When you look at the statistics, they’re way out in front in every statistical category except one — and that’s turnovers. And they know that. So, I’m sure they feel like if they can get that part of it cleaned up, they’ve got a great chance of winning football games.”
Kansas City sports the NFL’s worst turnover ratio at minus-13 with the next-worst team sitting at only minus-7 (Dallas). Quarterback Matt Cassel has been the main culprit in the turnover department, throwing seven interceptions and losing three fumbles to account for 10 of the Chiefs’ 15 turnovers through four games.
The Baltimore defense sees the potential in the offense they’ll be facing on Sunday, but the 23rd-ranked unit will try to continue Kansas City’s trend of making mistakes. The Ravens have forced eight turnovers this season, which is tied for third in the AFC.
It begins and ends with rattling Cassel, who’s been sacked 13 times already. However, Crennel has left the door open regarding the possibility of backup Brady Quinn replacing Cassel if his poor play continues.
“[Cassel’s] got a lot of weapons around him, all the way around him actually,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “They added a lot of new pieces, and I just think they’re doing a great job. You take away the turnovers and things, [and] they’re doing an awfully great job with their offense.”
Reed the ball coach?
Safety Ed Reed has spent plenty of time discussing his future in recent months, but the comments he made Wednesday had nothing to do with a desire for a new contract or a feeling of being slighted by the organization.
The 34-year-old talked about life after football and his desire to become a coach after his playing days are over.
“Right now, it’s just high school because I want to be around my son,” said Reed, who lamented losing so much time away from his family while playing at the University of Miami and in the NFL. “I would love to coach at this level probably at some point, maybe even college because I feel like you can get the kids while they’re young and still give them information.”
Always a vocal leader in the secondary, Reed has received praise from coaches and teammates alike this season for taking an even bigger role in helping to prepare teammates for opponents as well as offering advice on how to take care of their bodies.
“He is making sure we know exactly what we are doing so we can go 110 percent,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “He is in it this year. All the other years, he would teach us a little something here and there, but this year, it’s all 110 percent. He is teaching us everything that he can possibly know, and I am happy for it.”
Reed’s six-year contract that was signed in 2006 expires after the 2012 season.
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: T Jah Reid (calf)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Torrey Smith (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Jon Baldwin (hamstring), CB Jalil Brown (hamstring), DE Glen Dorsey (calf), CB Brandon Flowers (heel), RB Peyton Hillis (ankle), LB Derrick Johnson (groin), DE Ropati Pitoitua (elbow), WR Devon Wylie (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Kendrick Lewis (shoulder), G Ryan Lilja (back)