- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens proved last week they could beat a playoff contender at home. This week they will try to prove they can do the same on the road.

The Ravens, off to the best start in franchise history at 4-0, will use tonight’s game against the Denver Broncos (2-1) at Invesco Field as a barometer. Last week, the Ravens beat the San Diego Chargers at home after a dramatic last-minute drive.

“You bet [it will make a statement],” Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister said. “In their place, Monday night on national TV, there is no better stage to go out and showcase the type of team that we are.”

This year’s Ravens team is drawing comparisons to the Super Bowl XXXV champions six years ago. Those Ravens were 3-1 after four games. These Ravens are just one of three undefeated teams along with the Chicago Bears (5-0) and Indianapolis Colts (5-0).

“When you take a look at their defense, you can go back to 2000, too, with the Super Bowl — their defense had dominated every team in the playoffs,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “You look at the defense this year, and statistically they are even better than that team through a quarter of the season. Offensively, even though during the Super Bowl run they were ranked 16th, they’ve scored more points this year than they did then. They are playing great special teams. So when you take a look at all those things, it’s a good reason why they are 4-0.”

The Broncos are coming off their bye week and have had plenty of time to prepare for the Ravens’ defense, which has allowed just three second-half points all season and ranked second in the NFL in total defense (219 yards a game) through Week 4. The defense also ranked third in the NFL in points (8.3 a game), and the run defense was the league’s best (63.3 yards a game).

Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer will test the Ravens defense with his mobility. With Plummer’s movement in the pocket, the secondary may be forced to cover Denver’s receivers longer before he releases the ball.

“That is Denver’s offense. Their offense is based on him really: run, run, run and bam, bootleg, big play downfield,” Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “If you can keep Jake in that pocket, you can pretty much bottle up Denver’s offense. But if you don’t, it’s going to be a long day, because then he’ll hit [wide receiver] Rod Smith downfield and things like that. You don’t want him running around making those type of plays on you.”

To accustom themselves to Denver’s high altitude, the Ravens arrived earlier than usual.

“You either have to go way ahead, I mean leave [Thursday],” coach Brian Billick said. “But you’ve either got to be out there a good 72 hours or beyond to offset that effect, or you get in as late as possible. That’s what the medical people tell you.”

This game will be a homecoming of sorts for backup Ravens running back Mike Anderson and defensive end Trevor Pryce. Pryce played nine seasons for the Broncos and Anderson six.

“Whenever there is a Monday night game in the Mile High City, it’s electrifying,” Anderson said. “The crowd will be into it, and for us it’s a great challenge. The main thing is just the high altitude. If you are not [used to] that, after 10 or 15 minutes in there you start feeling it.”

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