Time to Shut It Down

It took six weeks, a dose of pain killers and the use of a harness, which needed to be strapped to his left shoulder, but Ray Lewis was back on the field against Miami yesterday, in a battle to see which team would separate themselves as playoff contenders.

There were many people that were surprised to see Lewis return to the Ravens, but as soon as Lewis started taking verbal shots at Ricky Williams through the media, the green light flashed and No.52 was coming.


The real distinction would come on game day though. Once Lewis crossed the sidelines and lingered onto the grassy field of Pro Player Stadium, he was officially back. He smiled to the crowd, no doubt looking toward his family and friends from the Miami area who came to attend the game. He rallied the troops and belted out his notorious "What time is it" game day chant, but this time, he was wearing his uniform and shoulder pads.


Lewis had that same swagger on the field too. He recorded 9 tackles, and met Williams a number of times on Sunday. On the third play of the game, Williams caught a pass in the flat and Lewis was there to confront him head on. Lewis stayed square, and then proceeded to knock the elusive Miami running back onto his back, forcing the Dolphins to punt the ball on fourth down.


With that play, all doubts were cast aside for the most part. Even at 75% health with one arm restricted, Lewis still controlled the field. When the guards and center tried to get their mitts on Lewis, they succeeded at times, but Lewis was still able to maneuver around their blocks to crash in on almost every running play.


And boy, did he have to take on a number of blocks on Sunday. Kelly Gregg and Ma'ake Kemoeatu were eaten up by the Dolphins' interior line and specifically, center Tim Ruddy. Lewis had very little protection the whole game but that didn't slow him down.


Did you see No.52 almost single handedly stop Ricky Williams at the goal line in the second quarter, forcing the Dolphins to score on 3 and goal? Ray Lucas went on to score the touchdown by diving over the middle, which enabled Miami to regain the lead at 14-7.


But Lewis is no one man defense and he could only do so much on Sunday, as Miami proceeded to pummel the black birds 26-7 in a game that the Dolphins needed to win desperately.


Like a boxer seeking to reestablish his aura of invincibility against a pretender posing as a contender, the Dolphins jabbed the Ravens repeatedly in the first half and landed their knockout blow against Baltimore in the second half of Sunday's game.


Miami took it to the Ravens physically, dominating the trenches on both sides of the ball. Ricky Williams dashed and gashed through the front seven, rushing for over 100 yards, with most of his yardage gained up the gut.


On the other side of the ball, Jamal Lewis rushed for just 47 yards. On almost every carry, Lewis was either hit at the line of scrimmage by Miami defenders or he was gang tackled after crossing the line because the offensive line couldn't get out into space or get any sort of push against Miami's defensive line.


As a whole, the offense just couldn't produce any substantial gains on first downs, which placed the burden on the passing attack to come through in third and long situations. Obviously, with the Dolphins netting a ridiculous total of seven sacks against Jeff Blake, they had the Ravens' leaky offensive line right where they wanted them.  


The mismatch in Florida looked pretty similar to the pasting Miami suffered against Baltimore in the playoffs last year, but the roles of both teams were reversed.  

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