Ravens get last word against J. Lewis

CLEVELAND -- A punishing Baltimore Ravens defense got the final word against Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis, silencing and shutting down the former NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

It was another dominant performance against the run by the Ravens in a 37-27 victory Sunday as a stingy front seven limited the former Ravens star to just 49 rushing yards on 19 carries. Although Lewis averaged only 2.6 yards per carry, Browns coach Romeo Crennel stubbornly kept sending him up the middle to absorb hit after hit.

Days before kickoff, Jamal Lewis had insisted the Browns were going to be effective at pounding the football against a defense that ranks first in the NFL against the run with an average of 64.3 yards allowed per contest. He got quieter and quieter in his post-play conversations with the Ravens as the game progressed and he was continually stymied at the line.

"I won't say too much about it because it's kind of embarrassing when somebody in the paper says they want to run at you," Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "If you're going to run up on a lion, make sure you sneak up on him. Don't tell him you're coming.

"For me, that kind of made me look at our guys and say, 'That's personal. They want to run the ball.' They're talking, but we're the best team in the NFL at stopping the run."

Now, the Ravens haven't allowed an opposing runner to eclipse the 100-yard mark in an NFL-best 27 games. It's an impressive streak that dates back to a Dec. 10, 2006 game against Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson.

A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Lewis was emphatic that the Ravens are far too stout upfront with defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Justin Bannan. Plus, Baltimore has a hard-nosed linebacker corps that features Lewis, Bart Scott, Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson.

"Nobody is going to run the ball," Lewis said. "That's a simple fact. That isn't talking trash. They know it. We don't have to say it."

Jamal Lewis had entered the game with momentum, but found nowhere to run against a swarming defense.

The Browns are 11-1 when Lewis carries it 20 or more times, but that 20th carry Sunday wasn't going to make a difference.

"They have a big defense and they play well against the run," Crennel said. "We didn't get a lot going in the running game. Towards the end of the game, they were able to pin their ears back a little bit and rush the passer. I think that was the difference."

Cleveland finished with just 64 total rushing yards on 23 carries. Lewis' longest run was seven yards.

"Jamal wanted the ball a bunch, and we knew they would try to run the ball," Ngata said. "We had a great game plan. We tried our best to make them one-dimensional."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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