- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. By Peter Boulware's high standards, this has been a down year as far as sacks are concerned.

Boulware, the Baltimore Ravens' all-time sack leader with 57, has just five this season after leading the AFC with a career-high 15 in 2001.

During his six-year career, Boulware has averaged more than nine per season. And the proficient sack specialist will have a prime opportunity Sunday in Houston to raise his total in a must-win game for the Ravens (6-7) against the expansion Texans (4-9).

The Texans have allowed an NFL-leading 68 sacks of rookie quarterback David Carr this season, four short of the NFL record with three games remaining. Randall Cunningham, the Ravens' backup quarterback last season, went down 72 times in 1986 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I'd like to get some, but you never know how sacks go," Boulware said.

Last week against the New Orleans Saints, Boulware broke a six-week sack drought when he dropped quarterback Aaron Brooks for an 8-yard loss early in the third quarter of the Ravens' 37-25 defeat.

"I almost forgot what it was like to get to the quarterback," he said. "Hopefully, I can keep going this week and get a few more and end the season the way it should be."

Boulware, 27, played the 1999 and 2000 seasons essentially one-armed. In 1999, he had a dislocated shoulder that was supported by a harness, severely limiting his movement, but finished the season with 10 sacks and was named a Pro Bowl starter.

Following offseason surgery, he had just seven in 2000, but the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV anyway with Boulware as an important cog of a record-setting defense.

Boulware, the Ravens' first pick in the 1997 NFL Draft (fourth overall) out of Florida State, is capable of putting Carr in the record book all by himself. Last year in the Ravens' regular-season finale, the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder sacked Minnesota Vikings third-stringer Spergon Wynn four times and forced him into a fourth-quarter fumble that linebacker Jamie Sharper returned 8 yards for a game-clinching touchdown. Boulware's four sacks tied Michael McCrary's team record and earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

After a season-ending knee injury to defensive end McCrary last season, Boulware switched from linebacker to defensive end for the last six games and registered 7½ sacks in the final month of the season. In the Ravens' 4-3 alignment, Boulware operated freely on the edge and finished second in the league in sacks to New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who broke Mark Gastineau's NFL record with 22.5.

Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Ravens have switched to a 3-4 scheme. With McCrary hurt again for most of this season, Boulware has had to endure double- and-triple teams because he's the Ravens' only dominant pass rusher.

"He's drawing a lot more attention than he's had in the past," middle linebacker Bernardo Harris said. "He's a marquee guy who they can't let get to the quarterback. I'm sure the protection is going to be turned to him, the focus is on him. You want to try to move him around and give him different looks and give him different guys to try and beat."

Carr, who was the top overall pick in last April's NFL Draft, has been sacked for losses totaling 366 yards, and Ravens quarterback Jeff Blake suggests that Carr should take more three-step drops. But Boulware said just getting up 68 times is the sign of a top-notch quarterback.

"That's very impressive, that's the mark of a good quarterback, someone who can go back there and take a sack and get back up and play," Boulware said. "As a pass rusher, that's probably one of the most frustrating things, if you're sacking a guy and hitting a guy pretty good and he keeps popping up, you're like, what is it going to take to keep this guy down?"

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