Street Talk - The latest street talk and Baltimore Ravens related News from the Russell Street Report Team.
Lombardi’s Way - A column from the 24×7 founder that focuses on the Ravens, the NFL, Baltimore, the world of sports or life’s inspirations.
Word on The Street - In the spirit of the CBS Sports Minute with Boomer Esiason, RSR brings you Word on The Street, a 90 second (or less) podcast on topics exclusively relating to the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens Links - We’ll give you the best stories about the Ravens from around the web three times per week.
The Fanimal - If you are an animal about the Baltimore Ravens, then you are a Fanimal! Follow the Russell Street Report blog Fanimal Crackers!
The Edgar Awards - The Edgar Awards will range from the Maryland county that is home to the best Ravens fans to the best Ravens podcast; from the best collection of displaced fans to the best local craft brews that should be part of your next tailgating party.
The Road to RSR - Our writers explains their journeys as fans and how they came to write for our little corner of sports media.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There wonâ€™t be any starterâ€™s pistols, relay batons or stopwatches in the Baltimore Ravensâ€™ inventory today at M&T Bank Stadium.
That wonâ€™t discount the need for speedy reactions, though, from the Ravensâ€™ defense as they attempt to prevent multi-dimensional Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick from transforming a football game into a track meet.
For Baltimore (7-2) to put more distance between its competition in the AFC North and pad its three-game lead, it will need to corral Vick to send the Falcons (5-4) to their third consecutive defeat.
â€œWeâ€™re going to need our track shoes and a couple of rockets to chase him down,â€ outside linebacker Adalius Thomas said. â€œI think we can take him down.â€
Vick has already rushed for 650 yards, more than Jamal Lewis despite the Ravens’ running back having nearly twice as many attempts than the quarterback. Although Vick fumbled twice without being hit in consecutive losses to Detroit and Cleveland as he uncorked a total of four interceptions, his agility, arm strength and imagination remain a constant threat.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to do something,â€ Ravens coach Brian Billick said. â€œYou can either assign a guy to him or whatever you can, but you better have more than one guy assigned to him at any given time because heâ€™s going to make some phenomenal plays outside the structure of the offense.â€
Vickâ€™s game-changing improvisational ability prompts any opponent to alter its routine, particularly a defense that will be without seven-time All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis due to a severely bruised back that required a minor surgical procedure earlier this week to drain a pool of blood.
Without Lewis for the second consecutive week, the Ravens will insert 6-foot-3, 270-pound converted defensive end-linebacker Jarret Johnson inside. Bart Scott will move over a few steps to occupy Lewisâ€™ spot in the middle.
The Ravens allowed 162 rushing yards during last weekâ€™s 27-26 victory over the Tennessee Titans without Lewis in the lineup for the first time this season.
â€œThe offense has a newfound confidence that they didnâ€™t have before the game when they donâ€™t see him in the middle,â€ rush end Terrell Suggs said. â€œThey are ready to go then. It would be good if we could have him in there, but if not, we still have to play like weâ€™re trying to get to the championship.â€
However, making that adjustment hinges heavily on containing Vick.
Vick has rushed for 74 and 80 yards over the past few weeks as the headliner of the Falconsâ€™ top-ranked rushing attack thatâ€™s on pace to break the league record for rushing yards in a single season. Plus, the Falcons have elusive, diminutive runner Warrick Dunn, a scrappy 5-foot-9, 180-pounder who complements Vick adeptly with 761 rushing yards.
Last week, the Ravens got a little practice against a mobile quarterback as they allowed 39 rushing yards and a touchdown to Titans rookie Vince Young. However, Young is much bigger and stronger at 6-4, 233 pounds than Vick, whose sudden change of direction is unique in the NFL.
â€œThe two are like comparing apples and oranges,â€ Scott said. â€œVince Young is going to be a good player in this league. Heâ€™s a long, tall, high-strider. Vick is more elusive, quicker, more irk-and-jerk, and thatâ€™s totally different.â€
Vick has had an uneven season while solidifying his status as an improved, albeit imperfect pocket passer. He has completed 129 of 246 passes for 1,559 yards and 12 touchdowns, but has also tossed nine interceptions.
â€œMichael Vick, his name speaks for itself,â€ Suggs said. â€œThe guy can make a play when there isnâ€™t one and the guy can explode for a big one.
"When you have a fast quarterback and an elusive running back, you can pretty much do unlimited things as an offense. Weâ€™ve really got our hands full, but if heâ€™s in the pocket, I have a feeling weâ€™ll be comfortable with it.â€
Vickâ€™s ability to buy time for his receivers to get open could be a major key as he tries to exploit struggling cornerback Samari Rolle.
Besides tall, fast receivers Michael Jenkins, Ashley Lelie and Roddy White, Vickâ€™s favorite target is deceptively quick tight end Alge Crumpler.
â€œIt makes for a long day on the back end if he gets out of the pocket because receivers then have an opportunity to readjust their routes,â€ cornerback Chris McAlister said. â€œYou just have to do a good job of plastering up on the back end.â€
Three years ago in a preseason game at the Georgia Dome, Thomas slammed into Vick and broke the quarterbackâ€™s right fibula. Ever since that point, Vick has been up and down statistically.
The Ravens are hoping to exploit his penchant for the critical miscue. Baltimore leads the NFL with 26 takeaways and Thomas is a likely candidate to shadow Vick as a roving spy today to try to counteract his ability to break containment.
With the second-ranked run defense in the league matched against the best running attack in the NFL, itâ€™s likely to be an intense, high-octane matchup. If it turns into a contest where Baltimoreâ€™s defense is watching the back of Vickâ€™s jersey as he dashes upfield, itâ€™s going to an even more difficult challenge to win.
â€œHopefully, we wonâ€™t have to do much of that,â€ Scott said. â€œHopefully, heâ€™ll stay in the pocket and we can stir the pocket up for him and contain him. Itâ€™s going to be a tough task and weâ€™re prepared for both.
â€œIn some games, he stays in the pocket and passes. He can scramble a lot and is very elusive. Heâ€™s definitely one of the better talents in this league.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland