Game Scout: Cardinals @ Ravens
Anquan Boldin (Getty)
Anquan Boldin (Getty)

Posted Oct 28, 2011


A preview of this weekend's game as the Cardinals head to Baltimore with a disappointing record of just 1-5.

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/30/11
SURFACE: Field Turf
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
PREDICTION: Ravens 23-7

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Ravens publicly decreed RB Ray Rice would get more work after he had eight carries in Monday's loss at Jacksonville. Rice, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, had 13 or fewer carries in three of the first six games. The growing concern is an offensive line not creating running lanes and allowing too much heat on QB Joe Flacco. The Cardinals yield just 3.8 yards per carry but their young secondary has been abused. The Cardinals might have a limited Beanie Wells (knee) at running back. Keeping the threat of the run alive is essential to QB Kevin Kolb's health. The left side of the line can't hold up against the Ravens' personnel and Kolb has been sacked multiple times in every game in 2011.

FAST FACTS: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has 16 catches in the last three games but was targeted 29 times. ... Flacco has one touchdown pass in his last three games (102 attempts).

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Cardinals

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has gradually expanded the playbook, and the Cardinals should be operating at nearly 100 percent capacity now.

Horton installed an entire new scheme in training camp. But after his unit played poorly in the first two games, he scaled back drastically.

About 30 percent of the scheme was available last week against the Steelers, and Horton planned to have the rest of it back this week for the Ravens.

Schemes won't be the only things that are different about this defense. Reserve linebackers Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield and Stewart Bradley all received more playing time last week.

Acho or Bradley could start in place of Joey Porter against the Ravens. Porter has a sore knee, but he also has not been producing.

Acho has a better understanding of the defense than Schofield, but Schofield is the better pass rusher.

Bradley, a key free-agent signee, has been a disappointment as he's taken more time than expected to make the transition for the 4-3 to 3-4.

Last week, the Cardinals used him as an outside pass rusher in sub packages. He could reprise that role this week, as well as see some time in the middle as a backup to Paris Lenon.

Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have said that as an offense, they have moved on from Monday night's debacle against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But can they move forward?

For now, that's the tenor struck by several Ravens players and coach John Harbaugh as the Ravens prepare to welcome the Arizona Cardinals to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

"Oh, you've got to move forward," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I don't think anybody felt good about that game on the offensive side of the ball. And hey, you get sick to your stomach when you play games like that, and you can't move the ball and things don't work out your way. But that's part of being an NFL football player, is moving on to the next week and realizing that, 'Hey, this is a game we love to play. We've got to go out there and have fun and keep it fun.' And obviously, it's a little bit more fun when you're winning football games, but you've got to move on. The only way you move on is go out there next week and play the best you can."

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was similarly defiant as he answered several questions about the direction of the offense.

"There's nothing to worry about," he said. "For us, we know what we're capable of. We go out and we execute."

The Ravens presented a textbook case of offensive futility in the 12-7 loss to the Jaguars. The unit gained just 16 yards of total offense in the first half, a franchise record-low.

The Ravens converted just 2-of-12 third downs, finished with 146 yards of total offense (42 shy of another team record low), and averaged only 2.8 yards on 53 plays.

The showing contributed to the offense dropping several spots in some key NFL categories, including total offense (14th to 20th), rushing offense (12th to 19th) and passing offense (13th to 17th).

Perhaps just as significantly, the performance drew scrutiny on the offense's use of Pro Bowl tailback Ray Rice, who finished with season lows in carries (eight), rushing yards (28) and total yards from scrimmage (63).

After the loss, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs questioned the offense's strategy, saying that he was "baffled" by the diminished number of touches for Rice against Jacksonville.

Rice, who preferred to talk about the Cardinals, said he had no worries about his role in the offense.

"If we were getting first downs, I'm sure I was going to get my carries," Rice said. "I wasn't really too concerned with it. This week is a totally different week. We're not going to ignore the fact that it did happen. We didn't execute. ... It's us as a whole offense. I don't want to be the guy who is singled out or is begging for carries. But at the same time, I do know that when we're getting first downs, I touch the ball. We'll get that as the week goes."

Many critics have wondered whether Flacco is equipped to lead the franchise as an elite quarterback, if a re-tooled offensive line hasn't developed the chemistry to be on the same page, and whether offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is capable of making the necessary adjustments at halftime.

Those questions simply fuel the Ravens and their eagerness to prove the doubters wrong.

"The thing is, we've played well leading up to this point," Boldin said. "We had one bad performance, and everybody thinks we're the worst in the league right now. But that's the way this thing goes. If we come back and have a good performance, then you're back on top again. We don't worry about the week-ins and week-outs. Our whole focus is getting better every week."

Perhaps the best thing for the Ravens is that they have a short week of preparation. The Monday night contest eliminated a day of preparation for Arizona's defense, which is actually ranked in the upper half of the league against the run.

Getting back to work has been a bonus, Harbaugh said.

"You have to dig in, you have to go to work, you have to get with your guys, you have to communicate," he said. "You have to fight, and you have to try and get better. The great thing about being a coach or being in sports is that you get to go back out next week and you get a chance to redefine yourself. You are only as good as your last outing, but no matter what the last outing is, it has no impact on the next outing - none whatsoever. That's why you move on so quickly. It's great to get out here and practice and get back to work."

PERSONNEL NEWS

Cardinals

--TE Todd Heap was limited in practice this week and likely will be questionable for the Ravens game. Coaches would like to at least use him in red-zone and third-down packages.

--RB Beanie Wells practiced on a limited basis late in the week. Wells has a sprained knee and likely will be a game-time decision.

--RB Alfonso Smith will start if Beanie Wells can't play. Smith has looked good in limited time this year but he also has limited experience. At 208 pounds, he's small, too.

--OLB Joey Porter has a sore knee and might not be able to play on Sunday. If he can't play, Sam Acho or O'Brien Schofield will replace him.

--QB John Skelton is now the backup to Kevin Kolb. Skelton was No. 2 until suffering a high ankle sprain in preseason. He was replaced by Rich Bartel, who was the backup through the first five games.

Ravens

--FS Ed Reed did not practice on Thursday despite fully participating in Wednesday's session. Reed, who suffered a stinger in the team's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night, will likely play against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

--SS Tom Zbikowski fully practiced for the second straight day. But Zbikowski, who is dealing with post-concussion symptoms, still has not been cleared for contact and could miss his third consecutive game.

--CB Chris Carr was upgraded from limited to full participation. A nagging left hamstring injury has shelved Carr for the past three contests.

--WR Lee Evans did not practice on Thursday, marking the second consecutive day he has been inactive. Evans, who has been troubled by a left ankle injury, did not sound optimistic about playing on Sunday, and he is expected to miss his fifth straight contest.

--LG Ben Grubbs did not practice on Thursday, his second consecutive absence. Grubbs, who has been bothered by strained ligaments in a toe on his right foot, is expected to sit out his sixth straight game.

--LB Dannell Ellerbe did not practice on Thursday. Ellerbe, who has been troubled by a balky hamstring and was ruled out of Monday night's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, will likely miss Sunday's contest.

--CB Jimmy Smith (high left ankle sprain) is no longer on the team's injury report. If he can avoid a recurrence of pain, Smith might make his debut on defense against Arizona.



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