Bengals' M. Lewis must tackle Ravens' defense he helped create

Cincinnati coach forced to put his emotions aside

Pro Football

October 17, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Peter Boulware allowed himself a moment of reflection on the impact Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis had on his career before snapping himself back to the matter at hand.

"He was the guy who helped me to get to where I am. I thank him for that," said the Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker, whose team will face Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. "Times are different now. He's a Bengal, and I'm a Raven. We have to get it on like that."

Lewis, who was Ravens' defensive coordinator for six seasons (1996-2001), will reunite with Boulware, linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerback Chris McAlister and linebacker Cornell Brown, players he groomed to become important parts of a Ravens defense that finished second in the league statistically for three straight seasons (1999-2001).

That defense's crowning moment came in the 2000 Super Bowl season when it set a record for fewest points in a 16-game schedule (165). The Ravens also finished first in the league in allowing 970 rushing yards, recorded four shutouts and allowed only one touchdown in four playoff games.

For Lewis, watching video of his former players, as he has done all week in preparation for Sunday's game, gets him worked up.

Only Ray Lewis, Boulware and McAlister remain as starters, but all three are as important now to the Ravens' 3-4 defense as they were then under Lewis' 4-3 scheme.

"It's difficult watching the defense play, you get excited," Lewis said. "Many of those guys I know very well. I am happy [Ravens defensive coordinator] Mike Nolan is doing an excellent job, and they are playing well. That is the biggest thing. When I watch tape of the Ravens' defense, it is fun to watch."

It may be fun for Lewis to watch, but it should be as difficult to play against. The Ravens are ninth overall in total defense and have given up just two meaningful touchdowns the last two games.

Lewis' defense, though, is not bad itself. The Bengals, who are giving up 300 yards a game, are one spot lower than the Ravens and are giving up 29 fewer yards than they did last season when they were 17th in the league.

It started from Day One with Lewis when he set his agenda, including a slight overhaul of the roster and a change in the offseason conditioning program. It was a philosophy Lewis saw working with Ravens coach Brian Billick.

"You have to set the direction every single day," Lewis said. "Everybody is looking to you for direction and you have to be the guy to set it. When it is successful, you keep it going, and if it's not, you have the ability to change it, tweak it and move forward. That's probably the biggest thing."

Billick rehired Lewis after the Ravens fired coach Ted Marchibroda and his staff following the 1998 season.

Two current assistants with the Ravens, secondary coach Donnie Henderson and defensive line coach Rex Ryan, remain from when Lewis was coordinator.

"Marvin was a huge part of what we created here," Billick said.

Now Lewis is trying to turn around a franchise that has been the worst in the league the last decade. Attitudes are changing, even if the Bengals' 1-4 record is a reminder of past futility.

"Some 1-4 teams, you look at and say, `They are just sorry,' " Ray Lewis said. "There are some 1-4 teams that you look at and say, `Wow, these guys are a bounce away from being 3-1 or whatever it is. And their attitude, I think Marvin has their spirits up right now.

"The greatest thing about Marvin is sometimes you are not always going to agree with what Marvin says or the way he says it. But he is going to push you to that point to truly get your great side out of you and not just average."

NOTES: The Ravens upgraded guards Edwin Mulitalo (ankle) and Casey Rabach (hip) from questionable to probable. Ron Johnson (knee) will miss his second straight game. ... The Ravens will hold the NFL's Flag Football Regional Tournament on Oct. 25 for girls and boys ages 9-14. Registration ends today at 3 p.m.

Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (3-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-4)

Site: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 2

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