Over the weekend, Chris Redman went fishing at his western Kentucky cabin and tried to land the big one.
In his Monday Night Football debut next week, the Ravens' first-year starting quarterback will have to be content going after minnows.
The Ravens (0-2) are coming off their bye week to play the Denver Broncos (3-0), one of the league's hottest teams employing one of the trendiest defenses. The Broncos have contained three Pro Bowl quarterbacks this season with their cover-two scheme, a two-deep zone that forces offenses to make short throws and reduces big pass plays.
Shut out in their past seven quarters, the Ravens understand that putting up points against Denver will be a product of endurance rather than explosiveness.
"I know it's boring to a lot of fans and sometimes it is for us, too," Redman said yesterday after the team's first practice since returning from the bye. "But that's what you have to do. A patient quarterback will do better than a quarterback that gets greedy. When I get an opportunity, I've got to take advantage of it. I know it seems like a broken record every week. But that's what we're seeing."
Like the conventional cover-two defenses, Denver safeties Izell Reese and Kenoy Kennedy split the field into halves to give the cornerbacks deep help. While offenses generally attack this zone by running 20-yard routes over the middle, the Broncos counter that strategy by dropping back middle linebacker Al Wilson like a center fielder.
This game plan has held three big-name quarterbacks - the St. Louis Rams' Kurt Warner, San Francisco 49ers' Jeff Garcia and Buffalo Bills' Drew Bledsoe -in check.
Ranked 26th in pass defense, the Broncos don't scare offenses because they have given up an average of 245.6 passing yards a game at a 72.9 percent completion rate. But the most important statistic is that offenses are averaging only 8.6 yards a completion.
After watching film all weekend, Redman is not discouraged that more veteran quarterbacks have yet to crack Denver's defense.
"For me, it's kind of fun to watch Jeff and Kurt," Redman said. "You watch things they hit and you watch things they missed, too. They had opportunities to make them."
Redman knows the feeling. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers use the same cover-two defense, and Redman missed all four of his downfield opportunities.
His best shot came when the Ravens froze the middle linebacker at the line of scrimmage with a play-action fake and receiver Brandon Stokley faked out Bucs safety John Lynch to run wide-open over the middle. But Redman's potential touchdown throw fell 5 yards short.
"You really have to scheme pretty well to create verticals against these cover-two teams," Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "So, when you don't hit any of them, it makes for a long day."
During their 20-possession scoring drought, the Ravens have cracked the opponents' 20-yard line only once.
To generate longer drives, the Ravens need to design high-percentage throwing chances for Redman. He connected on only 16 of 38 passes (42.1 percent) against Tampa Bay and has completed 50 percent on the season.
"If I missed anything last week, I didn't probably run enough underneath stuff," Cavanaugh said. "That should be his first read."
The other key is for Redman to keep his composure.
"I think I was pressing a little toward the end of the last game and getting frustrated," Redman said. "That's a thing you have to experience and learn to calm yourself down."
And Redman has learned that you have to remain patient to reel in the big one.
"We haven't had an easy road at all," Redman said. "We just have to keep pushing. It's going to make us better. If we can pull this one off, we can be an offense to be reckoned with."
The Broncos' defense has held three former Pro Bowl quarterbacks in check this season - the Rams' Kurt Warner, 49ers' Jeff Garcia and Bills' Drew Bledsoe:
QB Com-Att Yds TD Int
Warner 32-41 315 0 1
Garcia 27-36 205 1 1
Bledsoe 27-41 283 2 0
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Denver Broncos
Site: Ravens Stadium
When: Monday, 9 p.m.
TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line: Broncos by 7 1/2