J. Lewis: 'Smoke being blown'

BALTIMORE -- Mt. Jamal erupted for the first time this season. Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis bubbled with frustration following a 23-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers, complaining that he wasn't involved enough after being limited to a season-low nine carries for 41 yards.

With the running game slightly more productive than it's been in weeks, Lewis wanted the coaching staff to figuratively press the pedal to the metal.
"The offensive line was jacked up, we got some good runs starting off early and I think we just pumped the brakes on that," Lewis said. "We were getting positive yardage upfront and I think we just pumped the brakes on that and didn't smash on it and keep on going.
"It's very frustrating. I think we just let this one get away from us. I think we kind of had them where we wanted them."
Lewis, who had averaged 2.2 yards in the previous two games and entered the game 27th in the league with 62 rushing yards per game, averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year appeared to run with better vision, quickness and power than in recent weeks. However, Lewis was still unable to finish off runs and dash past the secondary as he did in 2003 when he was the NFL rushing champion with 2,066 yards.
Lewis' greatest frustration stemmed from carrying the football only once more in the game after busting a 17-yard run. After Lewis was hit for a one-yard loss that was negated by Carolina defensive tackle Kris Jenkins' false start, he was replaced by backup Mike Anderson.
Anderson rushed for just seven yards on six carries and absorbed several hard hits. Musa Smith had one carry for five yards.
Last week, Ravens coach Brian Billick emphasized that he didn't care who carried the ball how many times and would simply ride the hot hand.
"It was very disappointing," said Lewis, whose 41 yards put him over 7,000 for his career as he became the 47th player in league history to reach that milestone. "I guess I wasn't hot enough at that time or whatever. Everyone wants to know what happened to the running game. Everybody wants to know where the old Jamal Lewis went and where he's at.
"You get a 17-yard run and get taken out. There's just nothing you can do about it. When you hear things about who's hot or who's not, a lot of that I just feel like it's smoke being blown."
Lewis has gained only 2,264 yards in 2004, 2005 and 2006 combined. He's playing this season under a contract that acts as a one-year, $6 million deal with a $5 million option due at the start of free agency in March. General manager Ozzie Newsome has said the team will review its relationship with the former Pro Bowl runner after the season.
When asked why he thought the coaches didn't utilize him more, Lewis replied: "I don't know. I don't think it's being done intentionally. .. There's nothing you can do about it. I can't change it. The only thing we can do is keep pushing forward."
TRAINING ROOM: Besides quarterback Steve McNair's concussion and neck sprain, the only other injury reported was to rookie safety Dawan Landry (knee). He sprained his medial collateral ligament after intercepting the first pass of his NFL career in the first quarter, breaking Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme's club-record 150 pass attempts in a row without an interception.
DECISIONS: At the start of the fourth quarter at the Panthers' 34-yard line, Billick opted to have rookie Sam Koch punt it rather than have kicker Matt Stover attempt a field goal.
"Faith in my defense," Billick said when asked why he didn't send Stover into the game. "It was outside of Matt's range. The game was still manageable. I'm betting on my defense to keep them down."
LUCKY BOUNCES: Wide receiver Mark Clayton was as surprised as anyone to catch touchdown passes from 62 and 14 yards off a pair of tipped Kyle Boller passes. He finished with five catches for 101 yards.
"Not in my wildest dreams," Clayton said. "But God has a strange way of drawing things up." Panthers safety Mike Minter was angered by Clayton's fortuitous timing.
"We're going to stop the run and make a team one-dimensional," he said. "Again, if you take away those fluke passes, their passing game isn't going to do anything, either."
QUOTABLE: Panthers defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu on returning to Baltimore after signing a five-year, $23 million contract with Carolina in March: "It's a different feeling, man. I had to make sure when I get up off the pile that I walked in the right direction and not end up on the Ravens' side."

QUICK HITS: Linebacker Adalius Thomas' sack extended the Ravens' pass-rushing streak of at least one sack to 11 consecutive games. They have 37 total dating back to Dec. 4, 2005 for the most of any NFL team in that span. Thomas is tied with linebacker Bart Scott for the team lead with five sacks. … The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks David Pittman and Corey Ivy (kidney tear), running backs P. J. Daniels and Cory Ross, linebackers Mike Smith (concussion) and Dan Cody, offensive guard Ikechuku Ndukwe and wide receiver Devard Darling. … Cornerback Chris McAlister, who's off to his best start in years, intercepted his third pass of the season, the 19th of his career. … The announced attendance of 72,762 is a Baltimore football record. … A fan was ejected by police after arguing with and threatening Carolina assistants through the glass separating the coaches' booth from the stands.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times inWestminster, Maryland.

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