Ravens-Chiefs key matchup


CB Chris McAlister vs. WR Derrick Alexander

Chris McAlister already has been schooled by one outstanding receiver. And the Ravens' rookie cornerback will be lining up for another class tonight, when the Kansas City Chiefs come to PSINet Stadium.

Say hello to Derrick Alexander, who rolls into Baltimore with some of the better hands, quicker feet and slicker moves of any AFC wide-out. Oh, and extra motivation will not be a problem for Alexander, who put together back-to-back, 1,000-yard seasons in Baltimore before the Ravens let him take the free-agency route to the Chiefs following the 1997 season.

Motivation will be in abundance for McAlister, who has taken over as a starter opposite four-year veteran DeRon Jenkins. McAlister is fresh off getting burned for a game-turning touchdown by Tennessee's Yancey Thigpen, whose stutter-and-go move left McAlister standing flat-footed as Thigpen scampered untouched into the end zone.

Alexander, who is averaging 21.1 yards a catch, promises to challenge McAlister repeatedly tonight. While both teams figure to pound each other with solid running games, the game very well could hinge on how well McAlister contains Alexander, who also happens to own a pretty good stop-and-go move in his repertoire.

"Derrick Alexander is an outstanding, double-move receiver. He's a real master at it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He's going to show you that little curl move [to the inside], get you to jump on it, then go vertical on you.

He's done a good job in the structure of what they're asking him to do [in the offense]."

"He's a good athlete who makes good catches and can run after the catch," McAlister said of Alexander.

McAlister is well aware of Alexander's patented double moves. He said he learned a valuable lesson from Thigpen. Instead of peeking into the offensive backfield after a play fake by the opposing quarterback, McAlister vowed to keep his eyes on the proper targets.

"I'm concentrating on staying square with my backpedal and keeping my eyes focused on the receiver, my keys, or wherever my eyes are supposed to be. I can't take peeks to look around at anybody else," he said.

"I'm not just going to worry about someone's double move. Once you worry about it, you're lost."

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