Taylor thrives with Lewis bottled up

BALTIMORE -- Jamal Lewis was bottled up, thudding constantly into a brick wall. While the Cleveland Browns specifically targeted the Baltimore Ravens' starting running back, they seemed to forget about accounting for backup Chester Taylor. Taylor rushed for a season-high 92 yards on eight carries, including a career-long sprint of 52 yards to set up a field goal in the second quarter of the Ravens' 16-3 victory Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"My guys turned the dude out and I cut off it, saw open space and I tried to hit it," said Taylor, whom Cleveland ironically tried to sign with a $3 million offer sheet that Baltimore matched during the offseason. "Our offensive line has been doing a great job for me and Jamal. Hopefully, it can continue throughout the year."
While Taylor escaped from tacklers, Lewis was limited to 59 yards on 24 carries, a 2.5 average. Lewis entered the game averaging 147.6 yards rushing in four years playing against the Browns, success highlighted by an NFL record 295-yard outing two years ago.

The Browns planned for Lewis. Instead of employing their standard 3-4 alignment, Lewis said he was often encountered with a 6-2, which is a standard goal-line look.

"I think I got a big target on my chest out there," Lewis said. "It was tough sledding, but we got it done. I'm feeling good. I'm just trying to get things rolling.

"The yards aren't there, the 150 yards, cranking off big runs, but you've got to look at it like I'm a target. They're going to key on me and it kind of opens it up for other people."

The high point for Lewis was leaping over the Browns' front seven on 4th-and-1 and landing on his feet for a first down.

Both Taylor and Lewis are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after the season, and Lewis has previously expressed annoyance that he hasn't been offered a contract extension.

Lewis, who underwent surgery on his right ankle in the offseason, said he twisted his foot and had it re-wrapped. Afterward, Lewis indicated he had a clean bill of health.

The same can't be said for the Ravens' fullbacks.

With starter Alan Ricard inactive because of a calf strain, Lewis actually had to play fullback for three snaps and tried to block for Taylor when fullback Ovie Mughelli left with a sprained ankle. Rookie fullback Justin Green handled the majority of the snaps after Mughelli's injury.

"When we do that in practice, I ain't running and he ain't blocking," Taylor said of Lewis' lead-blocking. "He told me he had me and luckily it worked out."

Lewis chuckled when asked about his blocking efforts in the I-formation. Obviously in an unfamiliar role, the former Pro Bowl runner barely grazed a defender as a lead blocker. Somehow, Taylor gained four yards.

"I told Chester, ‘I'm sorry, but I'm apologizing now,'" Lewis said. "I think if I touched the man I might get a good block."

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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