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Ravens learned the hard way to focus on Holmes

FootballBaltimore RavensPittsburgh SteelersNew York JetsSantonio HolmesSuper BowlOakland Raiders

Santonio Holmes had just one catch last Sunday and three the week before that, but if you are worried that the Ravens might overlook the New York Jets' speedy wide receiver Sunday night, you obviously have a selective memory.

Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano does not.

"He's been a Raven killer," Pagano said. "My nightmares, when I wake up in the middle of the night sweating, it's because I think of '08, the three losses [to the Pittsburgh Steelers]. He had a hand in all of them. They were all extended plays, scramble plays where Ben [Roethlisberger] found him in the open and he created touchdowns."

In nine career games against the Ravens while he was a member of the Steelers, Holmes has torched the Ravens' secondary for 35 catches, eight touchdowns and 641 yards. The last seven times Holmes has faced the Ravens, he has gotten in the end zone.

That included a 65-yard touchdown catch in the Ravens' 23-14 loss to the Steelers in the 2008-09 AFC championship game, and his controversial game-winning 4-yard touchdown catch with 43 seconds left five weeks earlier. He also scored two touchdowns against them in the Steelers' dominating 38-7 victory on Nov. 5, 2007. That, at the time, was the worst loss of the Brian Billick era.

Holmes didn't play when the Jets and Ravens met in last year's season opener as he was serving a suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. But the Ravens don't exactly need a reminder of what the former Ohio State standout is capable of doing to a defense.

"I just know the guy is a great wide receiver and he's been in the league for a while, and he's been doing great things since he got here," said Lardarius Webb who is expected to start at cornerback opposite Cary Williams. "He's Santonio, you know. You expect greatness. We've seen greatness from him. We saw him make the catch that he made in the Super Bowl. He has it all. We just have to be on point, be on top of our game."

Holmes, who is in his second season with the Jets, caught only one pass for 19 yards in New York's 34-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday. Clearly not pleased with his role in the offense, he told reporters after the game that the Jets need to "open up the game plan a little bit and have a little bit more fun."

Through three games this season, Holmes has 10 total catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

Beyond Holmes, quarterback Mark Sanchez certainly has plenty of other options. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress is another former Pittsburgh Steeler who has given the Ravens trouble in the past. Former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason will obviously be plenty motivated to have a big night. Dustin Keller is one of the better tight ends in the league, while veteran LaDainian Tomlinson remains a threat out of the backfield.

But if you are the Ravens and have a long memory, it will be hard to stray too far from Holmes. In his last three games against the Ravens, he's caught 13 balls for 230 yards and three touchdowns.

"He catches the ball, and I don't mean to be silly when I say that," said Ravens cornerback Chris Carr. "You really have to make sure that you have extremely tight coverage when you go up against him. You know that if it's a good pass, he's going to catch the ball. And of course, he has good speed and good quickness. That Super Bowl catch that he had [against the Arizona Cardinals], most receivers aren't going to make those plays."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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FootballBaltimore RavensPittsburgh SteelersNew York JetsSantonio HolmesSuper BowlOakland Raiders
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