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Defense Makes the Difference

The Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensively look like the same team.  Both have big quarterbacks with near identical passer ratings: Joe Flacco is 92.1 on the season and Josh Freeman is at 92.0.  The running stables of Baltimore and Tampa's teams are very comparable at 3.95 and 3.85 respectively.  While Baltimore's receivers are a prestigious list of names, Tampa's young guys are pulling their weight.

Each pass defense has also played comparably within ten yards per game of one another.  The rushing defense, however, is markedly different.  Tampa's squad is 29th against the running game (which takes away from their 6th ranked passing defense), while the Ravens are ranked 9th.  

Tampa was able to make Frank Gore a non factor last week in San Fransisco (12 carries, 23 yards), yet this was with Troy Smith manning a lackluster passing game.  This week Ray Rice is going to have the box cleared by Flacco's big arm and an intimidating receiving corps in Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap.  T.J. isn't a slouch in the slot, either.  

Fortunately it appeared as though this defensive line turned a corner with a good performance from everyone between White and Crowder.  When Gore was shut down the 49er offense was completely ineffective.  Tampa's best chance lies within the same formula.  If Ray and Willis are unable to get moving, Flacco is going to have to beat a secondary that has been forcing turnovers regularly throughout the season.  

Freeman is more than an afterthought, but LeGarrette Blount gives this offense its best chance to succeed.  Controlling the clock and keeping the Ravens defense on the field and tired is paramount.  If he can force the safeties to sneak up it will provide lots of room for Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow.  Blount has run well in the past two games, and this has given Carnell Williams a niche to shine.  Cadillac has had an impressive past couple of games as he carried the ball 12 times for 113 yards and 2 scores.  Tampa's backfield is emerging as are the receivers, and if everything can start clicking this evening it will be a game for the Buc's to lose.