Focused J. Lewis kept out of picture

Sputtering offense, not outside distractions, keeps back under wraps

October 05, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

For the better part of last night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, something was holding back Ravens running back Jamal Lewis.

That something, though, was more a combination of the Ravens defense's failure to get off the field and an offense that mustered only four first downs through three quarters of the Chiefs' 27-24 win than anything involving Lewis' personal life.

Speculation heading into the game had Lewis possibly sidetracked by a likely impending plea bargain in his drug conspiracy case by the end of this week.

But when Lewis had the ball, especially in the fourth quarter, that seemed to be the furthest thing from his mind.

Lewis had runs of 7, 6, 10 and 7 yards on the Ravens' touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that cut the Chiefs' lead to three points. He ran hard and determined. On the 10-yarder, he resembled a bulldozer, running over Chiefs safety Jerome Woods and coming just an arm tackle away from taking it 17 more yards for a touchdown.

Unfortunately for Lewis, those runs plus the 1-yard carry where he stretched the ball over the goal line for the touchdown would be his biggest contributions.

Lewis finished with 73 yards on 15 carries. "If we had a chance to get a rhythm and actually run a series of plays, I thought we could get some things going, but that wasn't the nature of the game," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We couldn't sustain it, and then they'd get a long drive and it was just an out-of-sync night in that regard."

In the first half, the Chiefs held the ball for close to 22 minutes, and Lewis' longest run came on the first play of the game, an 18-yarder on a pitch after the defense bit on a fake to fullback Alan Ricard.

That would be one of the only mistakes the Chiefs defense would make all night.

Lewis' next six carries netted 13 yards. As Lewis pointed out earlier this week, defenses tend to hang their heads early if he starts off well, almost in resignation that Lewis will have a big game.

But the Chiefs, possibly drawing confidence from holding Lewis to a relatively tame 116 yards on 26 carries when the teams met last year, did no such thing.

"We didn't come out and set a good tempo like we do every week as far as doing what we do best, which is run the football," Lewis said. "We came out with the one play, but that was a freebie because nobody was over there. It wasn't a real big tempo-setter of a first play.

"We didn't take advantage of their weakness, which was to pound the ball on them and run it down their throat."

Lewis could have blamed the defense for not allowing the opportunity, but he refrained. Instead, he kept the onus on himself and the Ravens' inability to establish much offensively. The Chiefs offer much help in that regard, racking up 46 rushing attempts of their own.

"That's really not our style," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. "It just happened that after the first half, we had it for 21 minutes. We felt that we wore them down with our offensive line."

That is usually what the Ravens are saying at the end of games. Instead, Lewis was not too much of a factor, and a week that could end up being the most trying of his life has started off on the wrong foot.

"As far as everything else, that's going to take care of itself," Lewis said of his legal situation. "Honestly, that's the least of my worries right now. This is my job. This is what I do. I'm at work."

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