J. Lewis grinds out yards in win over Jets

BALTIMORE -- Jamal Lewis never completely escaped the New York Jets' grasp, but the Baltimore Ravens' bruising running back kept pounding away. In a renewed commitment to the running game that didn't yield major yardage, the Ravens went back to a chopping-wood strategy on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

It allowed Lewis to gain a season-high 81 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown in the Ravens' 13-3 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. It also meant that Baltimore (1-2) was able to control the football with a time of possession advantage of 38:01 to 21:59.

The Ravens improved to 20-3 all-time when Lewis has 25 or more carries.

"It was old-school Ravens football," Lewis said. "That's what we needed to get back to and I think we established our identity. It wasn't sweet. Everything didn't go our way, but we stayed on course and played physical football.

"Whoever wrote that our offensive line was too old, it just shows we have a big offensive line that likes to run and their defense was tiring out."

Although Lewis' longest run was only nine yards, there was a cumulative effect of his runs as New York appeared to wear down in the second half. Baltimore gained 115 rushing yards, but needed 45 carries to do it. Lewis averaged only 2.8 yards per carry.

"I didn't get 150, 200 yards rushing, but at the same time I did what I was supposed to do," Lewis said. "I churn the ball out, take time off the clock, get first downs, put us in position.
"Yards per carry, that's an individual goal. I'm not a selfish running back. We've just got to pound it out and I've got to get in that groove. It'll open up."

Lewis had gained just 57 yards through two games as the Ravens had the last-ranked running game in the league. The Ravens abandoned the run during the first two games as soon as they fell behind.

This time, the run was a factor, albeit not a dominant one against an athletic Jets defense that features middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end John Abraham.

"He was outstanding," Ravens coach Brian Billick said regarding Lewis. "Gutty, tough. That's as physical a front seven as we will play."

Lewis' third-quarter fumble was returned 43 yards to the Ravens' 1, but the defense held the Jets to a field goal.

"When you fumble, the red flag goes up and you overemphasize holding the football," Lewis said. "It made me mad a little bit and it made me run a little bit harder."

Although fullback Alan Ricard was limited by a calf injury that kept him from operating at full capabilities, he gritted his teeth and acted as Lewis' lead blocker on several isolation plays.

"It felt great because I hadn't played in a long time," said Ricard, who missed the first two games. "We pushed people around up front and we got back to doing what we do best: pounding the football."

The offensive line has been criticized for weeks for allowing nine sacks and not giving Lewis enough room to run. Quarterback Anthony Wright wasn't sacked and Lewis at least had a chance to gain some yards.

"The bye week was a blessing for us," center Mike Flynn said. "The big thing I noticed was that the guards and I worked the combos a lot better. We were a lot more fundamentally sound.

" It's one of those games that doesn't look pretty out on the field. If you grind out three and four-yard gains and manage the ball, you're going to win."

BACK WITH A SACK: Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware made an impact in a game for the first time in two years.
Boulware registered a 10-yard sack of quarterback Brooks Bollinger early in the fourth quarter for one of the team's five sacks. The four-time Pro Bowl selection missed all of last season with knee and toe injuries.
"I almost forgot how it felt," said Boulware, the team's all-time leader with 68 1/2 career sacks. "To come back and be able to get a sack, it just feels good to knock that off and hopefully I've got a lot more waiting out there."
Released in a salary cap move during the offseason and signed back during training camp, Boulware, 30, said he can still help the team.
"I know I have a long way to go and I can get better," he said. "For the most part, I think I'm headed in the right direction."

BOOED: The Ravens were booed loudly at the end of the first half despite a 6-0 lead when they stayed conservative and ran the football instead of trying a Hail Mary heave.

"Sometimes, the fans don't understand what we're trying to do," Wright said.

STARTING DEBUT: Rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton, the team's first-round draft pick, started his first NFL game.

He caught one pass for 4 yards, which was ruled short of a first down after Billick called for an instant replay review of the officials' spot.

"It was exciting to get in there," Clayton said. "I just wish I could have gotten us that first down."

TRAINING ROOM: Defensive end Tony Weaver left the game with a dislocated toe and will have a magnetic resonance imaging exam today. He was in a walking cast afterward.

Safety Ed Reed suffered a mild concussion, but returned.

QUICK HITS: The Ravens improved to 73-73-1 all-time. … Tight end Todd Heap on his touchdown-saving tackle of linebacker Victor Hobson after Lewis' fumble: "It doesn't seem like a big deal, but when the defense holds them three-and-out and a field goal, that's a huge deal. I was just trying to take him out however I could." ... Wide receiver Patrick Johnson, quarterback Kyle Boller, fullback Justin Green, center Jason Brown, offensive tackle Adam Terry, wide receiver Devard Darling, tight end Terry Jones and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards were deactivated.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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