J. Lewis can't fight through crowd

NFL's top rusher gets low of 35 yards, reduced role vs. Titans' stacked line

Titans 20 Ravens 17

January 04, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Jamal Lewis hadn't done much.

His longest run was for 8 yards, and even that was not in the impressive style that made him the NFL's rushing leader.

But with the game tied at 17, the momentum clearly with the Ravens and the look of what he thinks was a tiring Tennessee Titans defense, Lewis figured he would get the ball. And he did - for one carry that netted just 2 yards before a punt that led to the Titans' winning field goal in yesterday's 20-17 Ravens loss.

"I'm that type of player that when the game is on the line, I want the ball in my hands," Lewis said. "But I know there are reasons for what we do."

Lewis gained a season-low 35 yards on 14 carries in the loss to Tennessee. It was a distasteful way to end a memorable season for Lewis, one in which he rushed for 2,066 yards, second most in league history.

Lewis said if he had the chance to wear down the league's No. 1 rush defense as he has done to many this season, things may have been different for the Ravens.

"All teams start off good against us against the run because they know that is what we are going to do," Lewis said. "It was tough sledding early, which we knew it was going to be. But I knew they were going to soften up sooner or later. And I think they did a little bit in the fourth quarter but we just didn't stick with it, or we didn't pound it like we should have."

The Ravens did not call back-to-back running plays for Lewis the entire second half despite never trailing by more than a touchdown.

He had two 8-yard runs in the second half, but both came on second downs and forced the Ravens to throw the next play.

The Titans' alignment was similar to that which many teams have used against the Ravens, loading eight guys within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. The difference came in the box.

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, at 6 feet 6, 320 pounds, and Robaire Smith left little running room for Lewis, and linebacker Keith Bulluck ran down carries to the outside.

"They did nothing different," Lewis said. "They were just built to stop the run, and that is why they are right where they are at with their rush defense."

Bulluck led the Titans with eight tackles, and Haynesworth added three plus an 8-yard sack.

"Everybody stepped their game up a notch," Bulluck said. "We don't have the No. 1 rush defense for no reason. Like I said, no discredit to Jamal and the Baltimore Ravens, we expected to do what we did."

Apparently, so did the Ravens, which may be the reason the team failed to give Lewis multiple carries in a row.

"They're an excellent football team," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They stacked it up in there and all that was left, we kind of felt like outside was going to be where we were going to make those plays. We tried to maintain as best we could."

To make things worse, most of the 35 yards on Lewis did not sustain drives. Only one of the Ravens' 12 first downs came on the ground, and that was from quarterback Anthony Wright.

Lewis' previous low of 68 yards this season came against Jacksonville - second in the league against the run.

"We're the No. 1 [rushing] offense in the league, and when we don't act like that, then obviously we suffer those consequences," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said.

Those were consequences not suffered much this season. A week ago, Lewis was running through the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense and fell just 39 yards short of Eric Dickerson's single-season record.

By all accounts it was a memorable season for Lewis, and he refused to let yesterday and his lost role in the offense dampen everything he accomplished.

"It was a great season, but we put ourselves in the category with everybody else that is going home," Lewis said.

Rundown feeling

After averaging 24.2 carries and 129.1 yards per game this season, Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was held to 35 yards on 14 attempts yesterday. Here's a carry-by-carry look at Lewis' day, plus a breakdown of his career meetings with the Titans:

First half Second half

Att. Yds. Att. Yds.

1st 1 8th 3

2nd 2 9th 8

3rd 0 10th -2

4th 2 11th 8

5th -1 12th 0

6th 6 13th 4

7th 2 14th 2

Yards 12 23

Lewis vs. Titans

Date Att. Yds. Avg. TD

10-22-00 17 58 3.4 0

11-12-00 23 99 4.3 1

1-7-01 17 47 2.8 1

11-24-02 17 95 5.6 0

1-3-04 14 35 2.5 0

Totals 88 334 3.8 2

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