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Texans prep for Ravens' 3-4 rush


Rookie left tackle Duane Brown will square off against the Ravens' Terrell Suggs this Sunday.

The Texans' fifth-ranked passing offense will face a stiff test in the Baltimore Ravens' fourth-ranked passing defense this Sunday. Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense featuring linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis has limited opponents to an average of 182.1 passing yards per game.

For the Texans, protecting quarterback Sage Rosenfels will be critical this Sunday if they are to keep pace with their average of 262.4 passing yards.

"They have special guys on the edge that can really cause some disruption," tight end Owen Daniels said. "They have two guys that do a really good job and one guy, Suggs, who's doing some special things this year."

Suggs leads the Ravens with five sacks this season. He also has returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including a game-clinching score at Cleveland last week.

The Texans struggled against speedy edge rushers like Suggs in their two previous games against 3-4 defenses this year. In Week 1, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison had three of the Steelers' five sacks and two quarterback knockdowns. In Week 6, Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter had one sack and five knockdowns.

Rookie left tackle Duane Brown, who'll have the pleasure of facing off against Suggs, said that he feels more comfortable going against 3-4 defenses now that he's already seen two in the regular season along with the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason.

By the time Sunday rolls around, Brown and his teammates will have had almost two full weeks to prepare for the Ravens. They spent a week studying Baltimore in Week 2 before Hurricane Ike postponed the game to this weekend.

{QUOTE}"We had a pretty good game plan up until that point because it was almost gameday before that happened," Brown said. "We definitely have a lead on them and what they try to do and what they try to bring to the table. We've faced 3-4 teams before, so we pretty much have a good game plan going into this week."

The success of the Texans' passing game will hinge on more than just Brown vs. Suggs. Nine other Ravens besides Suggs have recorded at least one sack this season. Defensive end Trevor Pryce has three, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson has two and seven others – including Lewis, who has a team-high 54 tackles – have one.

Baltimore's stifling pass defense is set up by its top-ranked run defense. The Ravens have allowed only 64.3 rushing yards per game, consistently forcing opponents into low-percentage third-and-long situations that put pressure on offenses to not make mistakes.

Against teams with aggressive defenses like the Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings, the Texans have shown the ability to move the ball up through the air seemingly at will. The problem has been turnovers.

Rosenfels, who has played exceptionally this season minus a few costly giveaways, knows that ball security will be of the utmost importance against the opportunistic Ravens' defense.

"Basically, every play I'm up there, I'm going to be wary of trying to be as smart as possible with the ball," he said. "That might be taking some sacks this week and that might be throwing the ball away, and that's just going to be fine.

"Punting is not a sin, and usually if you end a game with all kicks at the end of the possession whether that be field goals, extra points or punts a lot of times you win those games. That's my goal for this week."

With the Ravens defense's combination of Pro Bowl personnel and confounding blitz packages, several Texans players say that this is their toughest challenge to date. Right tackle Eric Winston looks at this Sunday as a potential statement game for the offense.

"It's some tough sledding, no doubt about it, but this is what it's all about," he said. "I think a lot of guys in here are relishing the opportunity to go against another great defense.

"We've got to tighten our ship up. We've got to do better. We've got to do a better job of holding onto the ball, and these guys do a great job of forcing turnovers, so we're going to have our hands full. But I think a lot of guys are looking to it as an opportunity."

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