J. Lewis holds judgment on fumble

Raven wants to see tape before assessing blame on turning point in OT

Dolphins 9, Ravens 6

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

MIAMI - Jamal Lewis wasn't pleading innocence as much as ignorance.

Despite a barrage of questions asking him to explain how he lost a fumble - one that eventually led to the game-winning field goal - in overtime of his team's 9-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins yesterday at Pro Player Stadium, Lewis never budged from his original answer.

Before accepting or refusing blame, Lewis said he needs to check the film.

"I really can't speak on that play honestly right now until I see the tape," Lewis said. "Because I don't want to blame nobody. I don't want to blame myself. We just turned the ball over, and we just can't do that in that time of the game."

Lewis and quarterback Anthony Wright bobbled an exchange on a first-and-10 from the Ravens' 36 just over four minutes into the extra session.

Replays showed Lewis never fully gained control of the ball before losing it altogether and having to battle linebacker Zach Thomas under a pile of players for the recovery. Thomas won, and thanks primarily to the botch, so did the Dolphins on a 43-yard Olindo Mare field goal four plays later.

It was the 20th fumble of Lewis' career and the 13th he has lost. It also was Lewis' third lost fumble over the past two weeks.

"Last week, I can take responsibility for it, but this week I felt like I carried it pretty good before that last play," Lewis said. "And like I said, I don't know what happened."

One theory is that Lewis is starting to show signs of weariness after going over the 1,000-yard mark in eight games and taking more direct, hard hits through the first half of this season than he had in any of his previous three.

He bristled at that notion.

"I'm a little beat up, but I still can carry the football," said Lewis, who rushed for 88 yards on 26 carries. "I don't think I'm over-ran. I feel good.

"Regardless of how many carries I have, I'm still going to be in the same place that I am right now just from running the ball and being at this week in the season."

Lewis, however, could not deny he was again having shoulder problems. Cameras caught him nursing his shoulder coming off the field a couple of plays before the fumble.

"They checked it, said it was fine," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He checked it and said it was fine.

"I did not have the angle to see whether he got the ball cleanly, what he did when he got to the line, who blocked what. I was on the other side."

It was not the first time this year Lewis has left a game momentarily because of his shoulder, a fact not lost on Miami.

Lewis has missed plays in two other games because his shoulder flared up. He did, however, say that had nothing to do with the fumble.

"We knew that Jamal Lewis was nursing a sore shoulder and that he had put the ball on the ground a few times last week," Dolphins safety Sammy Knight said. "So we were definitely trying to get in there and cause a strip or see what we could do to get that ball."

Lewis does now has the distinction of having the longest run of the year against Miami after busting up the middle for 19 yards early in the fourth quarter. But after that run, which helped set up Matt Stover's game-tying field goal, Lewis' longest rush netted just 6 yards.

"I thought we started off pretty good running the football, but it looked like we kind of backed off a little bit," Lewis said. "It wasn't in the game plan to keep the fullback in the game. We were just trying to mix it up and do different things. All and all, it was tough sledding, but I think we ran pretty good."

At the very least, the Ravens ran effectively enough against the Dolphins, who were first in the NFL in yards per rush, allowing just 3 yards a carry.

The last run, though, will be the one remembered.

On hearing the dreaded "ball" call when Lewis lost it and eventually realizing the Dolphins had recovered, left guard Edwin Mulitalo knew what that meant. "You exhale all the hope you had in the game."

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