Ja. Lewis prefers his prize: a win

Rookie carries Ravens into second round with 110 yards, 2 TDs

January 01, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

When the NFL announces its Offensive Rookie of the Year today, the winner isn't expected to be Jamal Lewis, despite the grand season he had for the Ravens.

The honor will likely go to Mike Anderson, the former Marine who rushed for 1,500 yards for the Denver Broncos.

"That doesn't matter to me," Lewis said after the Ravens' 21-3 wild-card defeat of Denver. "That's an individual award. The only thing that matters to me is that we're going to the second round of the playoffs. I'm playing next week."

The Ravens' sterling defense aside, Lewis is one of the main reasons Baltimore will visit Tennessee on Sunday. While Anderson was limited to 40 yards on 15 carries yesterday, Lewis turned 30 carries into 110 yards and two touchdowns. The 21-year-old running back displayed drive and maturity as he located holes and broke tackles while never fumbling.

Lewis put his personal stamp on a game in which gusting winds made a sustained passing attack a rumor. He praised what he called a balanced Ravens attack, even though he carried the ball twice as many times as the team threw it.

"Let's not talk about that," Lewis said of his carries. "We just wanted to be hard-nosed; that was the key to this whole week. When teams stack eight or nine [defenders] in the box, I think that shows they're not too good against the run. All you have to do is pound it and show you can run the ball. We showed we can run the ball.

"As long as my line is taking control of the line of scrimmage and my wide receivers are blocking downfield, and we've got [fullback Sam] Gash shooting up in the hole, we can run on anybody."

Lewis ran behind All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden for 15 yards on the game's second play. He scored the only points the Ravens needed on the sixth snap of the second quarter. That 1-yard dive over the top followed his 20-yard gain around the left side that featured a sustained block by Ogden, and it came on a rare foray to the outside.

"I really don't like that play, but it worked out pretty good," Lewis said. "I don't like running side to side too much. I like running north-south. That's how I like to go."

Lewis was the intended receiver on a Trent Dilfer swing pass that bounced into the hands of Shannon Sharpe for a 58-yard touchdown, and Lewis iced the game with a 27-yard scoring run that featured the direct running style he favors. Lewis was met at the line of scrimmage by Broncos middle linebacker Al Wilson, but he brushed off an arm tackle, stepped over another defender and was slowed only by the stands behind the west end zone.

"He's a big, wide guy, and I couldn't wrap my arms around him," said Wilson, who was Lewis' roommate at the University of Tennessee. "He ran well. He is a good friend of mine and I'm happy for him. He played the game the way it was supposed to be played."

Lewis' next game will take him back to Tennessee, where he was the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year in 1997. His sophomore season was slowed by injuries, and three weeks into last season, he decided that his junior year would be his last in Knoxville.

Lewis gained 927 of his 1,364 yards in the second half of the Ravens' regular season after being limited by a dislocated elbow in the preseason and September.

"That [the injury] was a blessing in disguise," Lewis said. "It pays off this time of season. I'm still fresh."

Running strong

The offensive constant in the Ravens' eight-game winning streak has been rookie running back Jamal Lewis.

Opponent Att. Yds. Avg. LG TD

at Cinc....22...109...5.0...22...0

at Tenn....23...99...4.3...30...1

Dallas...28...187...6.7...18...0

Cleveland...30...170...5.7...36...2

San Diego...29...91...3.1...17...1

at Arizona...29...126...4.3...24...1

N.Y. Jets...22...52...2.4...12...0

Denver...30...110...3.7...27...2

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