Ravens seek to play keep-away with Rams

Updated: November 5, 2003, 8:58 PM ET
ESPN

OWINGS MILLS, Md. --The Baltimore Ravens' plodding offense isn't built to trade touchdowns with the prolific attack of the St. Louis Rams, who can rack up points as quickly as a pinball machine.

The best way to stop the Rams from scoring is to keep them from getting their hands on the ball. So Baltimore intends to play keep-away Sunday night, using Jamal Lewis to milk the clock and wear down the St. Louis defense.

"The main thing is to keep the ball in our possession, so our defense will be rested when they have to go on the field," Lewis, the No. 1 rusher in the NFL, said Wednesday.

The Rams, of course, know what's coming. St. Louis will surely stack eight players near the line of scrimmage -- standard procedure these days against Baltimore's run-oriented approach.

"We need to play our type of game, which is run the ball, and we've got to take the vertical (pass) when it presents itself," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Most importantly, we can't let them jump up the way they like to. If you let them get a couple touchdowns up, they're going to want to go up by four touchdowns."

It's being touted as The Greatest Show on Turf against Old School, but it's also a battle of wills. The Ravens own the league's top-ranked running attack, and St. Louis possesses the No. 1 passing offense.

"They try to wear you out with their multiple formations, the incessant down-the-field throwing the ball at you," Billick said. "We try to wear you out a different way. It's a great contrast, and it's going to make for great theater."

Baltimore quarterback Kyle Boller knows it would be foolish to try to match throws with St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger, whose 12 touchdown passes are twice the rookie's total. For Boller, the ideal scenario would be to get the Ravens an early lead and then let the defense hold it.

"When you have a good lead, you want to keep it. You might be able to be a bit more conservative," Boller said. "We just need to make sure we can put points on the board early. That will keep down the crowd noise, too."

It would help if the Ravens could improve their efficiency inside the opponent's 20. Baltimore ranks last in the NFL with a 29.2 touchdown percentage in the red zone, scoring only seven TDs in 24 trips.

"We've got to be better in the red zone. When you run the ball as well as we do, we should be better," Billick said. "Part of the problem is we're stubbing our toe with penalties and other mistakes. If we can eliminate that, our production in the red zone should go up."

Like it or not, the Ravens are preparing for a basketball-type game in which both teams do plenty of running -- and a whole lot of scoring.

"We've got to get our track shoes fitted," Ravens tight end Todd Heap said, "and be ready to go."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index