- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 14, 2004

Get ready for some trench warfare.

The Baltimore Ravens’ run-stopping defense will be put to the test today by New York Jets running back Curtis Martin.

Martin, the AFC’s second-leading rusher with 865 yards, could go over the 1,000-yard mark for the 10th straight season with a big game against the Ravens (5-3) at Giants Stadium. With Jets quarterback Chad Pennington out with a shoulder injury, Martin undoubtedly will be called upon to play a bigger role in coach Herman Edwards’ offense.

“[Curtis] Martin doesn’t get the due that he deserves,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “He’s an outstanding back. A class act. For whatever reason, he’s not mentioned when you talk about the great backs in the league, and he ought to be.”

At 31, Martin has shown amazing durability over the years playing a position that has an average life span of about five years. Martin is in position to join Hall of Famer Barry Sanders as the only backs to begin their careers with 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons.

However, in three career games against the Ravens, Martin has found rushing yards hard to come by. Martin, the NFL’s seventh all-time rusher (12,534 yards), has gained 157 yards on 61 carries (2.6 avg.) with no touchdowns against the Ravens. He is coming off a season-low 65 yards last week in the Jets’ 22-17 loss at the Buffalo Bills.

“He’s been at it a long time, and in New York, of all place,” Billick said of Martin. “It’s hard to fathom. He’s an outstanding back, as good as there has been in this league.”

The last time the Ravens faced an elite back this season, Kansas City’s Priest Holmes topped the 100-yard mark with 125 yards on 33 carries. Over the past four seasons, the Ravens have allowed the fewest 100-yard rushers in the NFL with nine.

Ravens nickel back Deion Sanders said Martin sometimes gets overlooked by the media because of his demeanor.

“It is because he has a laid-back personality,” Sanders said. “He is reserved and doesn’t bring attention to himself and that is why he goes unnoticed. Every time that you look at the league rushing leaders, he is right among them.”

Meanwhile, Jets backup quarterback Quincy Carter gets a chance to prove why New York (6-2) signed him in the offseason after the Dallas Cowboys waived him over allegations of drug use.

Carter led the Cowboys to a 10-6 record and an NFC wild-card berth in 2003 en route to becoming just the fifth quarterback in Dallas history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Carter’s 3,302 passing yards ranked seventh in the NFC.

Carter’s first career start as a Jet comes against the Ravens’ fifth-ranked defense, a unit that ranks in the top five of almost every statistical category.

“We’ve got a pretty good first-team defense that I’ve faced in practice every day for the last two months,” Carter said on the team’s Web site. “They’ve done a good job of getting me ready for this. It will be fun going out there and playing against Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and those guys. I’ve just got my mind on helping this team pick up our seventh win. This isn’t about me. It’s about that big number seven.”

The game is important for both teams heading into the second half of the season. The Ravens trail the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers (7-1) by two games and the Jets are one game behind the New England Patriots (7-1) in the AFC East.

“Any time you play an AFC team, you have to consider that,” Billick said of the head-to-head playoff tiebreaker. “It’s all a factor. I don’t know that the players particularly focus on it. That intimates that if this were not a team in that mix, then we would not play as hard. That’s not the case, but certainly, that’s part of the equation.”

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