- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Kyle Boller will get his first real test inside a domed stadium tonight against the St. Louis Rams, and it could be an ugly experience.

The Ravens did visit the Georgia Dome during preseason for a game in which Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick went down with a broken leg, but tonight’s nationally televised game at the Edward Jones Dome is the real thing.

“I heard it is one of the loudest stadiums,” said Boller, who is the AFC’s lowest-rated passer (62.3). “We needed to prepare for that in practice. You have to limit your checks, and you need to know the game plan.”

On top of that, the Rams are virtually unbeatable at home with a 34-7 record since 1999, including a current streak of 10. With an expected raucous crowd, noise could be a major factor — especially since Boller never has experienced anything like this.

“He is going to have to be very loud, and everybody is going to see what they have to do,” said Ravens coach Brian Billick. “If it’s a four-man [defensive] front, everybody has to see that it is a four-man front. If it’s a blitz, everybody has to see it’s a blitz. If you are counting on someone to tell you, or to hear a certain call, that is just not going to happen.”

The Rams, once called the “Greatest Show on Turf,” are fun to watch. They lead the NFL in total offense (374.5 yards a game) and passing averaging (288.1 yards).

Wide receiver Torry Holt is on pace to become the single season leader in receiving yards. Holt leads the NFL in receptions (63), receiving yardage (978 yards) and has nine touchdowns. Teammate Isaac Bruce has caught 43 passes for 692 yards.

The offensive line is giving quarterback Marc Bulger time to throw, and the third-year man is carving up secondaries. Bulger is the third-highest rated passer (90.3) in the NFC, completing 167 of 259 for 2,086 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Not only will the Ravens (5-3) have their hands full with the Rams’ passing attack, they also must deal with the return of star running back Marshall Faulk. Faulk, who has missed five games with hand and knee injuries, is 10th on the NFL’s all-time list for all-purpose yards with 16,599.

Faulk (6,050 yards) needs just 27 receiving yards to pass Ronnie Harmon (6,076) and move into second place on the NFL’s all-time list for a running back. When Faulk is healthy, there is no more dangerous running back in the league.

“He is one of the greatest impact backs in the game,” Billick said. “They are going to throw the ball the way that they want, then they are going to hand him the draws and weakside counters. That is how he kills you, coming out of the backfield.”

Nonetheless, the Ravens say they’re ready.

“Anybody that wants to deal with us, we’re on the schedule — come deal with us,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “It’s simple. Nobody ever thought the Ravens were going to be here [first place in the AFC North]. They didn’t think we were going to be here in 2000, but guess what? We’re back again. The Rams, we’ll see them Sunday night, and we’ll see if they are the most high-powered show on turf right now.”

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