xml:space="preserve">

OWINGS MILLS - Jameel McClain wasn't even surprised.

It was the type of play the Baltimore Ravens linebacker and most around the NFL have come to expect from dynamic Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

The San Diego Chargers' defense had completely sniffed out the Chiefs' toss play to the right side of the field, swarming toward the ball and seemingly leaving Charles with nowhere to run.

Didn't matter.

With one side of the field taken away, Charles simply stopped, reversed field, eluded two defenders at the line of scrimmage and blazed down the sideline for an electrifying 37-yard touchdown run.

"That's what happens when you don't bottle up someone with that type of speed," said McClain, whose Ravens face Charles and the Chiefs today in Kansas City. "We know what we're getting into. We know what he's capable of. I don't think anything he does is a shock. Shoot, with that type of speed you can do anything."

Just more than a year removed from major knee surgery, the explosive 5-foot-11, 199-pound Charles leads the NFL with 411 rushing yards while averaging nearly six yards per carry.

He had just three yards on six carries during Kansas City's Week 3 loss to the Buffalo Bills, but had 87 rushing yards or more in each of the Chiefs' other three games, including 233 yards and a touchdown in Kansas City's 27-24 overtime win against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2.

He's had at least one run of 36 yards or longer in three of the Chiefs' first four games.

"He's really special," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said of Charles. "He can run them all - the inside plays, the outside plays. He's not just a guy who tries to run outside, though he does. He can cut it back. ... He's a very special player."

The Ravens have seen Charles before.

He had 82 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries amid Kansas City's 30-7 loss to Baltimore in the wild card round of the 2010 playoffs.

Charles played in just two games last season, but rushed for 1,467 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 while averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

A dangerous receiver out of the backfield as well, Charles has 129 career catches for 1,143 yards and seven scores during his five NFL seasons.

The Chiefs drafted Charles in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft out of the University of Texas.

The Ravens are limiting opposing ball-carriers to just 3.2 yards per carry, but linebacker Ray Lewis said stopping Charles will "be a big test" for Baltimore's defense.

"[He has] straight speed, man, one of those guys that are home run hitters," Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. "If you let him in the open field - you saw it last week against the [Chargers] - you jump out of a gap here or there, one seam, and he's out of the gate. We saw this guy before... and we know what we're up [against]. It's going to be a big test for us."

A former standout college sprinter, Charles' speed has carried over to the football field.

"If he gets a step in front of anyone, he is gone," Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said.

Baltimore running back Ray Rice agreed.

Rice and Charles were part of the same 2008 draft class.

"If that guy gets out in space, it's trouble for a lot of people," Rice said.

Kansas City leads the league in turnovers (15), but also ranks fourth in the NFL in total offense.

Quarterback Matt Cassel has accounted for 10 of the turnovers - seven interceptions and three fumbles - but is also averaging 265 yards per game through the air and has tossed five touchdowns.

Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, a Pro Bowler in 2010, leads the Chiefs in catches (25), yards (342) and touchdown catches (3).

Ravens safety Bernard Pollard referred to the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bowe as "a physical athlete that's capable of going up there and getting the ball wherever it's at."

Bowe has been targeted by Cassel more than twice as much as any other Chiefs pass catcher.

"They're going to try to get him the ball whatever way they can," Pollard said. "We've got to know where he's at at all times."

The Chiefs also have a talented second-year receiver in 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jon Baldwin as well as a dangerous player out of the slot in Dexter McCluster.

Baltimore is ranked 23rd in the NFL in total defense and 29th in pass defense.

"They have talented athletes over there," Pollard said. "We've just got to stay grounded in what we do, allow our front seven to work and, us on the back end, we've got to cover as long as it takes."

But first and foremost, Ravens outside linebacker Albert McClellan said Baltimore will be focused on containing the dangerous Charles.

"We need to stop the run," McClellan emphasized. "Once we stop the run and make them one-dimensional, that's ballgame."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement