OWINGS MILLS — Dwayne Bowe is the sort of imposing wide receiver that football coaches love to send off the bus first as an intimidation factor.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ star wide receiver is big, strong and fast at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds.
And his production backs up his physique.
“He’s the prototype of that bigger receiver who can go up and jump for the ball,” Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said. “He’s definitely the look most teams want.”
After a suspension last year for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy and some embarrassing interview comments from Bowe about the Chiefs’ players supposedly ‘importing’ women to their hotel rooms for road games, the former LSU star has behaved more maturely this year.
Coincidence or not, Bowe had a breakout season this year and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. He leads the Chiefs with 72 receptions for 1,126 yards, ranking atop the NFL with 15 touchdown catches.
Now, the Ravens have to square off with Bowe during Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium where they’ll try to slow down one of the most dangerous downfield weapons in the game.
“I think the biggest thing that happens with him is he’s got really good hands,” Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “He’s a really big target, he’s a good target.”
Bowe caught a touchdown pass this season in seven consecutive games, establishing a new franchise record.
And he caught 63 passes for 1,010 yards and 14 touchdowns during the past dozen games. He tied for sixth in the league with 19 catches of 20 yards or more.
Even when Bowe is guarded closely, he’s arguably still open because of his superior size and strength.
“He catches the ball like he’s a big target and he’s going to go up there and he’s going to catch it,” Carr said. “I always say that’s half of the game right there. If you have a good quarterback like [Matt] Cassel or a [Tom] Brady, they’re going to get you the ball even though you’re covered. So, a lot of times there’ll be tough coverage on him, but he’s still going to catch the ball.”
Defending Bowe practically makes it mandatory to play press coverage to not let him get into his route with a full head of steam.
It’s pivotal that the Ravens get a solid jam on Bowe at the line of scrimmage.
And if the Chiefs get Bowe isolated in single coverage, particularly against cornerback Josh Wilson who was picked on by Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Roddy White earlier this season, the Ravens will need assistance over the top from free safety Ed Reed.
“When you’re a bigger receiver and you’re a thicker receiver, it’s always the best way to go about it because you can stop his momentum and you can get him off stride that way,” Mattison said. “The hardest thing about that is if you aren’t a real big corner trying to do that, you can sometimes get thrown out of the way, and now it’s a little bit negative for you.”
Carr won’t be intimidated by Bowe.
He’s played against him before when he was with the Oakland Raiders.
According to Carr, for all of Bowe’s size, he’s not like an Anquan Boldin, a Brandon Marshall or a Terrell Owens in terms of wanting to roughhouse on the perimeter.
“No, he’s not overly physical, no,” Carr said. “He just knows that when it’s time to go up and get the ball, he’s going to catch it, but he’s not really overly physical. Brandon Marshall is really physical, T.O. can get physical, but he’s really not that type.”
The Ravens won’t be overconfident against Bowe, though.
“I’m looking at a very explosive team,” Reed said. “They’ve got some guys with a lot of speed over there. I’ve been watching Bowe since he was at LSU and I know he’s a great player. We’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s the playoffs, so here we go.”