J. Lewis and offensive line wear down Bengals

Ravens' unit paves way for back's 180-yard game

Ravens 31, Bengals 13

Nfl Week 14

December 08, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Some of the signs are a little more subtle, like the look in a defender's eyes. Then there are the more obvious symbols, such as defensive players bent down, hands grasping their hips.

Either way, when running back Jamal Lewis starts to wear down a defense the way he did yesterday against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens' offensive line is the first to know.

"Every time we block and Jamal gets out there and gets 8-, 10-, 12-yard gains, our demeanor sparks up a little bit," said guard Edwin Mulitalo. "We go out there licking our chops because we know if we stay on our blocks, Jamal is going to break a big one. That's the way our mentality is. ... You see a little blood and you want to get after it."

Lewis broke several big ones yesterday, rushing 30 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens' 31-13 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.

Lewis was his bruising and elusive self, as was his offensive line, which often allowed Lewis to pick and choose what holes he ran through.

The fourth-year back out of Tennessee found running room up the middle behind center Mike Flynn. He found it off left tackle behind Jonathan Ogden and guard Mulitalo, and around the right side with Bennie Anderson and Orlando Brown.

The Ravens dominated the Bengals in all facets yesterday, but the biggest mismatch may have been the duel between the Ravens' offensive line -- the biggest in the NFL -- and the Bengals' defensive front four.

Getting seemingly whatever they wanted on the ground, the Ravens, who came in averaging 158.2 rushing yards -- the second-leading total in the league behind the Green Bay Packers -- had 223 yards rushing.

"All year long, those guys have stuck together," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who continued to use a rotation on the offensive line with Casey Rabach spelling Anderson, and Ethan Brooks coming in for Brown. "Any time they get Jamal cranked up, they feed off that, and Jamal feeds off that as well."

After being whistled for four penalties last week, the Ravens were particularly pleased that the offense was called for just one yesterday.

"Physically, I think we handled them," Flynn said. "We were pounding them pretty good, and that's probably a little disheartening."

Familiar with the type of defense that former Ravens defensive coordinator and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis advocates, the Ravens' offensive line was prepared for the blitzes and stunts Cincinnati likes to run.

Though quarterback Anthony Wright was sacked twice, he had plenty of time to throw for 145 yards and a touchdown.

On run blocking, it was no contest. Very rarely was Lewis touched until he had at least reached the line of scrimmage.

Lewis said the Ravens were so prepared for the Bengals' defense that, "it was already called where the holes were going to be, and I just pressed it and hit it where it needed to go."

Said Flynn: "We knew they were going to do a lot of blitzes and stunts because that's Marvin's defense. We did a lot of zone blocking, a lot of slicing, a lot of me kind of sneaking through the line to get to their linebacker and let the guard handle the down [linemen]. It worked well."

On Lewis' last touchdown -- a 13-yard run -- he was barely touched before reaching the end zone.

"We just try to open some holes, get him to the secondary and hopefully he can run somebody over," Ogden said. "That's always been our goal -- get him through the first level and see what he can do."

Offensive upturn

The Ravens' offense has improved during the team's three-game winning streak. Here's a look at its production in rushing and passing yards, first downs and points the past three games, and how the per-game averages compare to the first 10 games:

Opp. Rush Pass FD Pts.

Sea. 150 276 20 44

S.F. 117 165 15 44

Cin. 223 130 21 31

Totals 490 571 56 119

Avg. 163.3 190.3 18.7 39.7

First 10 163.5 127.3 15.7 21.2

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