Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) looks to throw during the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
RICK MORRISSEY: Ravens, 21-20
RICK TELANDER: Ravens, 23-21
DAN McGRATH: Ravens, 23-19
HUB ARKUSH: Bears, 23-20
ADAM L. JAHNS: Bears, 24-20
MARK POTASH: Bears, 21-17
PATRICK FINLEY: Bears, 17-16
Updated: November 16, 2013 6:28PM
WEEK 11 RAVENS AT BEARS Time:
RAVENS AT BEARS
Time:Noon Sunday at Soldier Field
Line: Bears by 3
TV: Ch. 2 (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
The Bears are coming off their worst rushing game of the year — 38 yards on 20 carries against the Lions. Matt Forte was held to a season-low 33 yards on 17 carries, with a long gain of 7 yards. Now they face a Ravens defense that is 10th in the NFL in rushing and fifth in yards allowed per carry and has allowed an NFL-low one rushing TD. Ravens NT Haloti Ngata will be a load for Bears C Roberto Garza and the interior line. But it’s not insurmountable. The Bills (203), Packers (140), Steelers (140) and Bengals (120) all moved the ball on the ground. The Bears, still eighth in the league in rushing, can do the same.
IN THE AIR
Josh McCown, who will start for the injured Jay Cutler (ankle), has a 103.2 passer rating (4 TDs, 0 INTs) in just more than six quarters. McCown has been sacked 3 times but will be challenged by a Ravens pass defense led by OLBs Terrell Suggs (9 sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (8), who have the third-most sacks by teammates in the NFL this season. The Bears counter with the most prolific pass-catching duo in the NFL in Brandon Marshall (60-786, 8 TDs) and Alshon Jeffery (47-735, 3). Jason Campbell, the Bears’ backup for Cutler last year, threw 3 TDs with 0 INTs and a 116.6 rating vs. the Ravens in Week 9.
RB Matt Forte is averaging 90 yards and 5.3 ypc in 4 games vs. 3-4 defense, but it’s up to the Bears’ offensive line to give him room to run. WR Brandon Marshall has been held to 4 catches for 24 yards (2009) and 5-30 (2010) in 2 games vs. Ravens CB Lardarius Webb. Especially with Jay Cutler out, Marshall knows he’ll have to win that battle Sunday.
WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL
It’s a classic case of the repressible force vs. the movable object — the Ravens are 30th in the NFL in rushing (73 ypg) and 32nd in yards per attempt 2.8). The Bears are 31st in the NFL in rushing defense (129 ypg) and 26th in yards per attempt (4.5). Something’s got to give. The Bears did hold Reggie Bush to 16 yards on 5 attempts in the first half last week before Bush rushed for 89 yards on 9 carries in the second half. Ray Rice (115-289, 3 TDs) is one of the best RBs in the NFL, but he’s averaging 2.8 ypc. The Bears had only 3 missed tackles last week — perhaps a sign they will improve their run defense.
IN THE AIR
Ravens QB Joe Flacco has been unable to recapture the magic that catapulted the Ravens to a Super Bowl title (11 TDs, 0 INTs). Without departed WR Anquan Boldin and injured TE Dennis Pitta, Flacco is 25th in the NFL in passer rating (12 TDs, 11 INTs). But he still throws a great deep ball. He has 10 pass plays of 40-plus yards. Only Andy Dalton (12) has more. Torrey Smith (41-753, 2 TDs) is the Ravens’ No. 1 threat, but 4 other receivers have reception of 40 or more yards. The Bears have allowed only 4 pass plays of 40-plus yards this season, but they’ll be without injured CB Charles Tillman.
Zack Bowman has big shoes to fill in place of Pro Bowl CB Charles Tillman (triceps), who is out for at least 8 weeks. Then again, Tillman was ranked 93rd among NFL CBs by ProFootballFocus. Whatever, Ravens WR Torrey Smith, fourth in the NFL with 17.4 ypc (with receptions of 74, 48, 46, 41 and 41), will be a challenge for either Bowman or Tim Jennings.
Bears coordinator Joe DeCamillis was looking at the bright side after losing Charles Tillman — who nearly blocked punts twice against the Lions — to injury last week. ‘‘We’ve got to get another young guy trained up,’’ DeCamillis said. ‘‘The fortunate thing is we’ve been through it before, so we should be able to deal with it. It’s going to hurt us to lose [Tillman] but . . . next man up.’’ The danger vs. the Ravens is clear: Jacoby Jones, the speedster from Lane College, led the NFL in KO returns last season, with two TDs. Jones’ long KO return this year, though, is 35 yards. Tandon Doss had an 82-yard punt return TD vs. the Texans in Week 3.
Bears QB Josh McCown came into this season with a 71.2 passer rating. In just more than six quarters in place of Jay Cutler, McCown is at 103.2 rating (4 TDs, 0 INTs). How long can he keep this up? Maybe Marc Trestman’s offense that includes a capable offensive line and big weapons in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett has turned McCown into a better-than-average QB. But a veteran Ravens defense that still has some bite even without Hall of Famers-to-be Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and is fourth in the NFL in sacks per pass play will be another big test of McCown’s newfound success.