Embattled Cassel tries to hold onto job as Chiefs take on Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have trouble with noise.

But the question that faces the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday when the Ravens visit Arrowhead Stadium is will they themselves give the home folks enough reason to get loud?

The visiting Ravens come in for the Week 5 matchup after a grueling first- month gauntlet in which they played four times -- versus Cincinnati, New England, Philadelphia and Cleveland -- within 18 days, most recently 10 days ago against the Browns.

The challenging September did not end without a price.

Several players on a veteran defense, including Ray Lewis, admitted fading down the stretch against Cleveland after when the Browns' last two passes fell incomplete in the end zone.

Subsequently, coach John Harbaugh gave his team a weekend off before an upcoming stretch of three road games in four weeks.

"I know a lot of guys out there were fighting fatigue," safety Ed Reed said.

In Baltimore's only previous road game -- at Philadelphia -- its offense totaled a season-low 325 yards with two turnovers in a 24-23 loss. In three games at home, the Ravens averaged 32.7 points and 457 yards with two overall turnovers.

The decibel level of the Eagles' home crowd short-circuited Joe Flacco and his offense, and Harbaugh expects more of the same obstacles in Missouri.

"The times we've played there, it's been really loud," he said. "It's one of the great venues in the NFL. It's a beautiful setting, it's traditional and it's really, really red. Our guys will have to be ready for that."

The Ravens had little trouble in their last trip to the heartland, winning 30-7 in a 2010 wild-card game when Flacco passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Ray Rice finished with 99 yards from scrimmage and a score and Baltimore picked off Matt Cassel off three times.

Cassel's struggles have restarted in 2012.

The quarterback has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled three times himself, accounting for two-thirds of a league-high 15 turnovers. The Chiefs have been outscored, 77-44, in losing two home games, and have lost six of seven overall at Arrowhead.

Cassel was intercepted three times last week against San Diego in a 37-20 loss.

"It starts with me," he said. "I've got to do a better job of protecting the football and putting our team in a better situation to be successful."

Nonetheless, coach Romeo Crennel stated without prompting that no quarterback controversy exists with Cassel and backups Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi.

"We just have to get him to be more consistent," he said.

Carrying goat horns along with Cassel against the Chargers was running back Jamaal Charles, who fumbled twice, part of a six-turnover team effort. The Ravens have forced eight turnovers in four games.

On the plus side, Charles has run for 325 yards in his last two games, but Baltimore has allowed 2.4 yards per carry in its last two.

For the Ravens on offense, Flacco has completed 28 passes in each of his past two games for a combined 738 yards. Among the targets, Torrey Smith caught 12 balls for 224 yards, while Anquan Boldin had 13 for 179 yards. Kansas City has allowed 10 passing TDs, tied for second-most in the league.

On the ground, Rice is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and had 108 yards on 19 attempts in his only regular-season game against the Chiefs, in 2009. In that game, Flacco passed for 307 yards with three TDs.

The Chiefs lead the all-time regular-season series, 3-2, though Baltimore won a 38-24 home verdict when the teams last played during the season in September 2009.

The last time the in-season matchup took place in Kansas City in 2006, the Ravens won, 20-10. Baltimore's John Harbaugh is 2-0 in his career against the Chiefs, while Kansas City's Romeo Crennel is 3-5 against the Ravens.


In addition to ear-splitting ambiance, the Chiefs' best opportunity to halt Baltimore's no-huddle prowess most likely lies on the two churning legs of Charles. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is most often thought of as a dynamic speedster rather than a powerhouse, but in the one game this season where he exceeded 30 carries -- in Week 3 against New Orleans -- he turned in a season- best 233 yards. His effectiveness in forcing the Ravens to collapse on him will also enable the play-action fakes of Cassel, which could result in big plays. Charles had 82 rush yards on nine carries, including a 41-yard TD run, in the post-2010 wild-card game against Baltimore.


Is Charles a potential game-changer this week? Yes. Could he make a slumping Cassel more effective? Yes. Therefore, is an upset possible? Yes. But all that said, the Kansas City defense has been suspect enough in three losses -- surrendering combined 112 points to Atlanta, Buffalo and San Diego - to tip the scales toward an effective and rested Ravens unit producing just enough to get it done.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ravens 30, Chiefs 20