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Texans, Carr test new-look Ravens

December 04, 2005|By DAVID GINSBURG

BALTIMORE - When he lines up behind center today, David Carr might not recognize the guys trying to stop the Houston Texans from moving the football.

Bart Scott, Tommy Polley, Dale Carter, Chad Williams and even special teams star B.J. Sams have become prominent figures in the once-feared defense of the Baltimore Ravens. The unit is so banged up that defensive coordinator Rex Ryan drew up several game plans this week, each one dependent upon the players available to him.

"We've just got to dig in the barrel and see who we can come up with," said Carter, who's nursing a tender hamstring. "It's tough when you lose key players on defense, but you just have to put in the next guy that's prepared to play."

Linebacker Ray Lewis has missed five games with a thigh injury and safety Ed Reed has sat out six straight with a high ankle sprain. It is highly unlikely that either will return today, and there's a good chance they will be joined on the sideline by two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister.

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"I don't know who's going to be out there. It's going to be interesting to see," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "The coaches will put something together and we'll see how it goes."

It's enough to make a quarterback salivate - even the oft-battered Carr, who has been sacked 50 times during the Texans' dreary 1-10 season.

If Carr had any misgivings about the prospect of facing the Baltimore defense, they were probably alleviated while watching game film of the Ravens' performance in a 42-29 loss to Cincinnati last week.

Baltimore was already without Lewis and Reed when McAlister took a seat in the second quarter with a strained hamstring. Minutes later, safety Will Demps left the game with a season-ending knee injury.

That left the Ravens with a base secondary of Rolle, Carter, Williams and Ward, a quartet that combined for one career start with Baltimore in 2004.

Not surprisingly, Carson Palmer threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns. It was the most points scored against the Ravens since 1998, the year before Brian Billick was hired as head coach.

A sputtering offense is the main reason Baltimore (3-8) is in last place in the AFC North, but this certainly isn't the defense Billick envisioned when he spoke over the summer about making a run at the Super Bowl.

"What we're having to do is adapt with the personnel that we have, and it's a multiple scenario. A lot of our practice is ifs, ands, and buts," he said. "We have to do that all week long."

The Texans, of course, know all about failing to live up to advance billing. Houston wasn't necessarily counting on a trip to the playoffs this year, but no one anticipated the disaster this season has become.

The low point occurred last week, when the Texans blew a 24-3 halftime lead in a 33-27 overtime loss to St. Louis.

"I think that it comes down to responding one of two ways. You either respond with character or you compromise," embattled coach Dom Capers said. "It certainly is a challenge, but I think that how people respond in these situations really reveals who they are and what they are all about. For me, the most important thing as a pro is how you do your job under these conditions."

Carr threw three touchdown passes last week, and if he can avoid sack-happy Terrell Suggs and Peter Boulware, could have another big day against Baltimore. Despite being sacked enough to make him flinch in his sleep, Carr has remained stoic in his resolve to improve.

"I want to compete with a smile on my face and go out and try to win every game, not let the bad things that happen get me down," he said. "I firmly believe that I was put here for a reason, and it is all going to work out for the best as long as I stay positive. We are all going to be fine. Sometimes it doesn't happen all overnight."

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