- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. There will be no heart and soul in the heartland.
For the first time in four years, Baltimore will be without five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis today when the AFC North-leading Ravens face the Indianapolis Colts at RCA Dome.
Lewis, who leads the Ravens with 69 tackles, partially dislocated his left shoulder trying to recover a fumble in last week's 26-21 victory at Cleveland. And if that wasn't enough bad news for the Ravens, defensive end Michael McCrary tied for the team's sack lead with two also will be sidelined. McCrary, who had offseason knee surgery, is being held out as a precaution. The team doesn't want to expose McCrary's knee to RCA's hard artificial surface, so Adalius Thomas will start in his place.
Without question, Lewis' absence is a devastating blow to the Ravens' young but scrappy defense. Lewis has started 63 consecutive games since sitting out a 12-8 loss to Tennessee on Oct.11, 1998. The Ravens are 1-3 in the four games Lewis has missed during his seven-year career.
"Obviously, if we don't have to play against Ray Lewis, it's going to make it easier for us," said first-year Colts coach Tony Dungy. "I don't know who they could put in there that would play with that type of energy and that type of instincts and everything that Ray has."
The Ravens probably will try eight-year man Bernardo Harris. The team is exploring various combinations to compensate for Lewis' absence, but the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Harris looks to be the first option.
Harris, whom the Ravens signed as a free agent from the Green Bay Packers, has started 79 games in his career but has spent three of the Ravens' first four games on the inactive list. Harris posted 100-plus tackle seasons in five consecutive years with the Packers.
Another option is to move outside linebacker Cornell Brown inside and insert third-year man Shannon Taylor outside in the Ravens' 3-4 defense. Undrafted rookie Bart Scott, who shone during the preseason, may spell Harris in certain situations. Coach Brian Billick didn't rule out going back to a 4-3 scheme to make up for the loss of Lewis.
The Colts' high-powered offense will challenge any defense the Ravens (2-2) put on the field. The Colts (3-1) feature a three-pronged attack of quarterback Peyton Manning (87 of 138 for 996 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions), running back Edgerrin James (385 yards on 103 carries with one touchdown) and wide receiver Marvin Harrison (32 receptions for 433 yards and three touchdowns).
"Those guys present a threat," Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware said. "If you try to stop the run too hard, they'll hit you across the middle with the pass with Harrison. They've got a great combination with the three of them."
Harrison is tied for third in the AFC in receptions, James is the AFC's sixth-leading rusher and Manning has a quarterback rating of 91.9.
"The less their offense is on the field, the better off you're going to be," Billick said.
The Colts hired Dungy, considered a defensive genius, to upgrade their defense. It seems to have worked. The Colts, thanks to the secondary of cornerbacks Walt Harris and David Macklin and safeties Cory Bird and Idrees Bashir, are ranked fourth in the NFL against the pass.
Indianapolis believes it owes a lot to free agent Walt Harris for its improvement on defense. The addition of the former Bear made starting corner Jeff Burris expendable. While Burris is toiling in NFL purgatory at Cincinnati, Walt Harris and the Colts are tied with Jacksonville atop the AFC South. Harris is solid in coverage and good in run support.
Last season the Colts' defense ranked No.29 in the NFL in yards allowed, but it has improved to 12th this season under Dungy. That defense will be put to the test by the Ravens who, after scoring just seven points in their first two games, have erupted for 60 in their last two wins.
"We're going to go up there and do what we do and hopefully stay on the field as long as we can," Ravens quarterback Chris Redman said. "We need to do what we've done in the last two weeks and keep this thing rolling."


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