After struggling in their lone road game, there is some concern with how the Baltimore Ravens' no-huddle offense will perform Sunday at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, historically one of the league's loudest venues.
Although the noise can be deafening, the fans there haven't had much to cheer about.
Coming back from a well-deserved break, the rejuvenated Ravens try to again make things difficult for Matt Cassel, whose turnovers have been one of the biggest reasons for the Chiefs' slow start.
Baltimore (3-1) has been off since beating Cleveland 23-16 last Thursday, its fourth game in 18 days. The veteran defense, led by 37-year-old Ray Lewis, admitted being a bit winded at the end of the game as the Browns' last-ditch pass attempt from the Ravens' 18-yard line fell incomplete.
"I know a lot of guys out there were fighting fatigue," safety Ed Reed said.
Coach John Harbaugh gave his team last weekend off to rest and get healthy before beginning a stretch of three of four games on the road.
The only time the Ravens have played away from Baltimore - in Philadelphia on Sept. 16 - their offense stalled, totaling a season-low 325 yards while turning the ball over twice in a 24-23 loss. In their three games at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens have averaged 32.7 points and 457.0 yards with two total turnovers.
Crowd noise forced Joe Flacco and the offense to huddle up at times in Philadelphia, and Harbaugh expects similar challenges at Arrowhead.
"The times we've played there, it's been really loud," Harbaugh 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.''
Despite Kansas City's home-field advantage, the Ravens had little trouble in their last game there, winning 30-7 in a 2010 wild-card game. Flacco passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns, Ray Rice finished with 99 yards from scrimmage and a score while Baltimore picked Cassel off three times.
While Arrowhead still gets loud, much of the noise there this year has been boos directed at Cassel.
The embattled quarterback has thrown seven interceptions and has fumbled three times, accounting for two-thirds of the team's league-high 15 turnovers. The Chiefs (1-3) have been outscored 77-44 in losing their two home games, and have lost six of their last seven at Arrowhead.
"It starts with me,'' said Cassel, who was intercepted three times in last Sunday's 37-20 loss to San Diego. "I've got to do a better job of protecting the football and putting our team in a better situation to be successful.''
Coach Romeo Crennel felt the need to defend Cassel, opening his postgame press conference by stating he would remain the starting quarterback without even being asked.
"We just have to get him to be more consistent," he said.
Cassel wasn't the only one at fault Sunday, as Jamaal Charles fumbled twice - part of a six-turnover performance by the Chiefs.
Cleaning up their miscues against a Ravens team that has forced eight turnovers seems like a tall order. As does finding room for Charles, who has run for 325 yards in the last two games but now faces a Baltimore defense that's allowed 2.4 yards per carry in its last two.
The Ravens' offense has been far more efficient.
Flacco has completed 28 passes in each of the past two games, totaling 738 yards. Torrey Smith was on the receiving end of 12 of those completions, accumulating 224 yards, while Anquan Boldin had 13 receptions for 179 yards.
None of this bodes well for Kansas City, which has allowed 10 passing TDs - tied for second-most in the league.
The Chiefs also have the difficult task of containing Rice, who is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He had 108 yards on 19 attempts in his only regular-season game against the Chiefs, a 38-24 win in 2009.
Flacco passed for 307 yards with three TDs.
- Matt Cassel
- Baltimore Ravens
- the Ravens
- Kansas City