Ravens embrace smash-mouth football

The Baltimore Ravens are a football team, not a butcher shop. Regardless, Jamal Lewis wholeheartedly approves of the beef in front of him as well as the coaching staff regaining their commitment to the running game. "That's a lot of meat upfront, and you've got to take advantage of having big guys that can block," Lewis said. "I love those guys, and they love to run. We just needed to establish a rhythm and be patient."

Even though Lewis and a reshuffled offensive line didn't carve the vaunted Denver Broncos' linebackers into mincemeat, the Ravens generally regarded Monday night's performance as a major step forward that keyed a 34-23 upset victory.

"We showed we can win by being physical," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said.

Not only did Lewis grind the football effectively for a workmanlike 78 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, but new right tackle Ethan Brooks held Broncos All-Pro defensive lineman Trevor Pryce to no sacks and one tackle in his starting debut. Meanwhile, the 347-pound Mulitalo returned to his comfort level inside.

The Broncos' lone sack came on a blitz by cornerback Tyrone Poole.

"I definitely got into the flow," Brooks said. "I thought we were physical upfront, had some good double-teams and got out to the linebackers to create some lanes."

 Denver entered the contest with the top run defense by allowing averages of 47.3 yards per contest and three yards per attempt. Lewis raised a few eyebrows when he said the Broncos weren't spectacular, possessed an average defense at best and concluded: "Just because they're ranked No. 1 against the run doesn't make them great runstoppers."

Afterward, Lewis seconded that notion despite his paltry 3.1 average per carry. Lewis kept colliding with swift, undersized Broncos linebackers Al Wilson, John Mobley and Ian Gold. He won several battles with the assistance of fullback Alan Ricard.

Lewis appears to be rounding into form after missing last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

"When I saw him jump over Deltha O'Neal, I knew he was back," said former Raven tackle Lional Dalton. "He was real hard to take down."

The next obstacle is putting together some longer gains. Lewis has 195 yards on 49 carries for a 3.3 average and a long run of 18 yards.

"I had an ACL tear and it takes a long time to come back," receiver Brandon Stokley said. "Jamal will only get better from where he is now."

By running often enough, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh forced the Broncos to play quarterback Chris Redman honestly. Redman responded with 13 of 24 accuracy for 152 yards, two touchdowns and an efficiency rating of 101.4.

"We didn't want to be one-dimensional," Lewis said. "We ran the ball so Chris could throw the ball over the top."

Lewis and his line say they can do more, beginning this week against the Cleveland Browns. The blockers say they get better with each dive and sweep, and Lewis said his timing and vision are starting to shed the rust.

"I have to recognize running lanes better," said Lewis, who rushed for a club-record 1,364 yards two years ago. "I haven't seen a lot of the holes soon enough, but that will come and we can build on this."


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