OWINGS MILLS, Md. _ The Baltimore Ravens' path to the AFC title game last year was interrupted by a rather displeasing encounter with Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
Baltimore's only loss from Nov. 13 through Jan. 21 was a 34-14 disaster in San Diego. In that game, Rivers went 17 for 23 for 270 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
"He sliced us and diced us last year," coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs added, "It wasn't that pleasant. Before I could look up it was 31-7. It was like raining touchdowns out there. He's a good quarterback."
In his last three starts against Baltimore, Rivers has won twice while going a combined 67 for 103 for 955 yards and six touchdowns with only three interceptions.
It's obvious the Ravens (8-2) need all the firepower they can get against the fearless nine-year veteran Sunday in San Diego. Fortunately, Baltimore won't have to face Rivers without free safety Ed Reed as the last line of defense.
Reed, an eight-time Pro Bowl star, was suspended for one game on Monday for repeated helmet-to-helmet hits. He appealed the suspension, and on Tuesday the punishment was reduced to a $50,000 fine.
"It probably would have been a pretty good break for us, but I thought the suspension was ridiculous," said San Diego linebacker Jarret Johnson, who played with Reed in Baltimore for nine seasons.
Reed's current teammates weren't too crazy about the ruling, even in its reduced form following the appeal.
"You don't win those (appeals) often," strong safety Bernard Pollard said. "They still took 50k from him. But he's able to suit up and play. We're excited about that. We get one of our 11 back."
Suggs said: "It's good to know (the rules are) not carved in stone and that they treat every case differently. We all know what type of player Ed Reed is, and there's not one player in this NFL who would call Ed Reed a dirty player — except for maybe the guys he hit. It was not intentional. It was a football play."
The Chargers (4-6) have struggled this season, but the circumstances are not unlike last season, when Baltimore came in with a four-game winning streak before being embarrassed by Rivers and the prolific San Diego offense.
"It will be a big challenge. He's a great player," Harbaugh said. "Between the quarterback and their receivers, maybe they're the most talented passing group in the league."
Said Pollard: "This is a team that's so much better than their record. Phillip Rivers is probably one of most competitive quarterbacks in the National Football League. That offense is explosive, so I just really think we have to have a great week of preparation."
Pollard played against Rivers as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans before coming to Baltimore last year. In each instances, Rivers excelled.
"This dude is competitive. I like it, I really do," Pollard said. "We've got to shut him up."
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