J. Lewis again is better back

Raven outgains Portis of Broncos by 48 yards, nears 1,000 for season

October 27, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

You could make a strong case that the two top running backs in the NFL were on the field at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday.

But at the end of the afternoon, the Ravens' Jamal Lewis did what premier backs do by rushing for 134 yards, while the Denver Broncos' Clinton Portis had 86, with nearly a quarter of those yards coming with the game decided.

It was the same old story for Lewis, who recorded his team-record sixth straight 100-yard game, and the Ravens' defense, which again forced an elite back to play second fiddle to Lewis in the 26-6 win.

"We're going to keep every back under what Jamal is getting," linebacker Ed Hartwell said. "Jamal is a bruiser. Jamal right now is the best running back in the league. And it's going to stay that way because we are going to keep all these other backs under 100 that are supposed to be great. Jamal is going to be the top rusher in the league."

Lewis has been that for much of the season, and is 23 yards shy of 1,000. He set a career high with 32 carries against the Broncos, sealing the Ravens' win with a 28-yard touchdown run over the left side on his final carry.

It was the culmination of a hard workday for Lewis, who was the recipient of a number of jarring hits while rushing through the middle of the Broncos' defense, and whose longest gain yesterday before the touchdown had been 12 yards.

"That's how it's been the last few weeks," Lewis said. "Early, it's not there. I talk to [Jim] Colletto [offensive line coach] and my running backs coach, and they tell me to be patient and to not look for the big run because it will come."

Portis' longest run was for 17 yards, a small victory considering the amount of attention the Ravens' defense gave him.

The Broncos were down to third-string quarterback Danny Kanell, who had not had an NFL start in nearly three years.

That forced the Broncos to run early and often. On Denver's second possession of the game, Portis carried six straight times for 31 yards to set up a 28-yard field goal by Jason Elam that put the Broncos up 3-0. The drive was aided by a 15-yard face mask penalty.

The dependence on Portis was about what the Ravens expected.

"We knew their quarterback situation," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We understood it very well through the week. And we knew they were going to try and feed Clinton Portis. We knew they were going to try and get him started."

Portis came into the game fourth in the AFC in rushing despite missing a game with a sternum injury.

He had rushed for 100 yards in four of his previous six games, but had as difficult a time as he did in his encounter with the Ravens last year, when he rushed for 55 yards.

Twenty-one of his yards yesterday came on the Broncos' final drive, when they were down by 20 points. Before then, Portis had three carries that lost yardage and just one double-digit carry (for 15 yards) between the second and third quarters.

That first scoring drive was essentially the only one in which Portis was a major factor.

"I knew after those first couple of hits, he was going to almost throw in the towel," Hartwell said. "That's why he tried to cut everything back. No back is going to run downhill, because they know we are going to flow and hit them in the mouth."

As for Jamal Lewis, he took little solace in showing up one of the league's shiftiest and most powerful backs.

"I don't play against Portis," Lewis said. "I just tried to help my team win, keep the ball going and moving downfield."

Run for glory

With 134 rushing yards yesterday, Jamal Lewis has run for 977 this season and is on pace to break the NFL single-season record. A look at Lewis' stats so far, his projected numbers and the top three rushing seasons in league history:

Through 7 games Att. ...Yds. ...Avg. ...TD

168...977...5.8...6

16-game projection

Att. ...Yds. ...Avg. ...TD

384...2,233...5.8...14

Top rushing seasons

Yds. Player, Team Year

2,105...Eric Dickerson, ...1984

L.A. Rams

2,053...Barry Sanders, Det. ...1997

2,008...Terrell Davis, Den. ...1998

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