Facing the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens went back to their roots yesterday.
Unleashing an old yet successful profile, the Ravens relied on powerful running back Jamal Lewis and a punishing defense to pull away from the Browns, 33-13, before 69,473 at M&T Bank Stadium.
But on this day, it was Lewis and not the defense setting the records.
Lewis rolled for 295 yards on 30 carries, surpassing the 3-year-old mark of the Cincinnati Bengals' Corey Dillon by 17 yards.
His league mark was the key in evening the Ravens' record at 1-1 and tying the team with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC North. The Browns fell to 0-2 and lost for the first time in Baltimore since 2000.
"Look, it's Lewis and Lewis," Ray Lewis told the running back. "You start it off and I finish it. A running game and a good defense is what we had our Super Bowl year."
On the second play of the game, Jamal Lewis delivered on his end of the bargain.
Crashing through the middle of the line, Lewis needed only to sidestep one defender on the left sideline to score an 82-yard touchdown. The toughest part of the longest run in Ravens history came when Lewis nearly slipped to the ground after getting through the line.
"If I would have fell, that would have been disappointing," Lewis said. "Luckily, it was the first run, so my legs were good. I got them under me and it was off to the races."
Luckily for the Ravens, Lewis is as good in the backstretch as he is out of the gate.
Late in the third quarter, the Ravens were teetering when quarterback Kyle Boller injured his knee and was replaced by Chris Redman. On his first throw, Redman lost the ball deep in his territory while cocking his arm back.
The Ravens' fourth fumble of the game was quickly converted into a touchdown by the Browns, closing the Ravens' lead to 16-13.
Two plays later, Lewis tore through the middle of the line, sprinted 63 yards for the touchdown and swung the momentum to the Ravens for good.
Using his power to bounce off tacklers and his speed to outrun defenders, Lewis broke the record by breaking big plays. Five of Lewis' carries totaled 234 yards and proved he has fully recovered from reconstructive knee surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2001 season.
"People forget how fast he is," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "In the Super Bowl run, he never really had the big, big run. To come back and have it fully, people are going to have to account for it."
The Ravens remained grounded for the fourth quarter, calling 13 running plays and one pass.
Billick, who has a reputation for favoring the pass, said, "You do what you have to do to win."
While Lewis garnered the spotlight, the Ravens' defense kept the Browns in the dark.
The Ravens stifled Cleveland, holding it to 175 yards of total offense. They held the Browns to one first down for the first 37 minutes. They allowed only one drive over 22 yards.
The pressure rattled Kelly Holcomb, who finished 17-for-37 for 147 yards and two interceptions. But the Ravens' secondary gave him no open looks and earned vindication after getting whipped in Pittsburgh.
Strong safety Ed Reed closed the game by returning an interception 54 yards for a touchdown.
"I'm really proud of our secondary," Billick said. "They put a lot of pressure on themselves. That was an outstanding receiving corps, and [they] did an excellent job clamping down."
The only disturbing part of the game was the sloppiness of the Ravens' quarterbacks. Three turnovers - a fumble and interception by Boller and a fumble by Redman - led to all of Cleveland's points.
"If the formula for us - as it obviously is - is to run the ball and play good defense, that's a tight game," Billick said. "We learned in the championship year that you can't turn the ball over. That's something we have to continue to get better at if we're going to play this profile."
Injured in his second NFL start, Boller said he could have continued to play and expects to start Sunday at San Diego.
"I got bumped on the left knee a little bit," Boller said. "It would be nice to hit some more throws, but when you have a running back running like that, it takes the pressure off you."
Boller's production (7-for-17 for 78 yards) also set records.
The seven completions were a team low for the 8-year-old franchise, and the 17 attempts tied a team mark.
"He's going to have to play better," Billick said. "I don't know if you can rely on a 300-yard rushing game every week. People are going to stack the box on us and you have to make [yards] outside."
The Ravens' game plan was far from a surprise.
After handing off to Lewis 15 times in a season-opening loss at Pittsburgh, the Ravens publicly emphasized giving the ball to their 240-pound back. It was an in-your-face attack as the Ravens continually shoved Lewis, whose previous career high was 187 yards last October against Cleveland, up the gut of the defense.
Of his 295 yards, 239 of them came by running up the middle.
"It just shows you that when we put our mind to it, we can do it," fullback Alan Ricard said. "The line was determined to set the tempo."
If Cleveland didn't know how the Ravens were going to attack, Lewis let the Browns know personally. Three days ago during a phone call with Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis, Lewis said he would break the record if given 30 carries.
"I guess the dude is Nostradamus," Browns safety Earl Little said.
By dusting off their old formula, the Ravens re-established their identity before heading outside the division. They play next week at winless San Diego, return home against the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs and then enter their bye week.
"Anytime you come into the division and get a win, that's always big," said Ray Lewis, who led the Ravens with nine tackles. "That would have been hard for anybody to come out of that 0-2 hole. We're proud of ourselves."
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