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Luckily for Baltimore, leaders and stars abound on that unit, from Ed Reed to Haloti Ngata to Terrell Suggs.
"Like I told the guys, there are 53 leaders on this team, and the guys know it," Reed said. "The communication wasn't there all the time with Ray not being there. We missed it. But guys made plays."
Linebacker Jameel McClain added, "Ray Lewis is a dominant force in football. Everybody knows that, so not having him makes the game different. But at the end of the day, we've got 11 guys out there that are prepared to play and go out there do what they had to do."
Michael Bush has done exactly that for the Raider by rushing for 461 yards over the last four games while Darren McFadden heals a right foot injury. The powerful, deceptively fast Bush has three TDs in that span and removed doubts that McFadden must carry the team.
Coincidentally, the Raiders and Bears meet Sunday in a critical game for both teams. Whichever side better replaces its key missing parts can make a strong statement heading into December.
As the final six weeks approach, nine teams already have needed to replace a starting QB, with both Chicago and Tennessee in line to do so Sunday. Many of those -- Miami, Indianapolis, Seattle, Arizona, St. Louis, Kansas City and Philadelphia -- do not have winning records.
Still, as they will tell you in Chicago, Houston and Oakland, there is life after key injuries. And possibly a playoff appearance in the near future.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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