J. Lewis is late scratch

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Thumb injury latest episode in trying year

absence felt at goal line

December 12, 2005

DENVER -- Ravens running back Jamal Lewis missed his first game of the season yesterday, deciding not to suit up about an hour before kickoff because his injured thumb would not allow him to grip the football.

It was another disappointment in a substandard year for Lewis, who may have all but assured himself of not reaching 1,000 yards this season for the first time in his career. (He missed the entire 2001 season with a knee injury.)

Lewis has 638 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a career-low 3.1 yards a carry.

"We knew there was a possibility because of the hand," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The whole question was, `Could he grip it?' We were hoping by game time that he could, and he just couldn't."

The injury flared late in the week, and Lewis was added to the injury report Saturday afternoon as probable. His absence hurt most when the Ravens got down to the Broncos' 1-yard line with 10 minutes left in the game.

On a third-and-goal, quarterback Kyle Boller threw an incomplete pass to Todd Heap, and Chester Taylor was stopped for a 4-yard loss on fourth down.

Taylor also lost a fumble on the Ravens' opening possession of the second half. Denver turned the turnover into a touchdown to go up 12-3.

"Fumbles, those kind of mistakes, they get you beat," Billick said.

Taylor, who declined to talk after the game, finished with 20 carries for 59 yards.

"Stuff like that happens," Boller said of losing Lewis. "Chester stepped up and was ready to go. That's the name of the game. You never know who is going to be up or down. You just have to improvise."

Lewis will have his hand examined further today.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

Onside kick passed up

With two timeouts and the game clock under two minutes, the Ravens could have chosen to onside kick after scoring a touchdown to draw within two, but instead pinned the Broncos at their 19-yard line.

Matt Stover faked an onside kick, then circled back before Aaron Elling kicked the ball to the Denver 1. The Broncos were set up to defend the onside kick, leaving little blocking on the return.

"It was based on the configuration - you go for the onside kick or you can get them deep and all you need is one stop," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Clayton sets team mark

Mark Clayton has set a franchise record for receptions and yards by a rookie, having caught 34 passes for 346 yards this season.

Clayton surpassed Travis Taylor, the only other receiver the team drafted in the first round. Clayton had a season-high 105 receiving yards and the first touchdown of his career against the Broncos.

"It doesn't matter," said Clayton, who ran a perfect corner route for a 39-yard score late in the fourth quarter. "I'd rather have one catch as long as we win the game. Coming out on top is far more glorious than anything statistically."

Sams nearly breaks one

Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams had his best chance to return his first kickoff for a touchdown but was caught from behind by rookie cornerback Darrent Williams.

Sams took the opening kickoff 87 yards to the Denver 10, where Williams knocked him out of bounds after angling him to the sideline. The Ravens settled for a field goal after losing 1 yard in three plays.

"It's not a mistake, but it's like, `Can we make a play? Can we step out of one tackle?' But it was a hell of a return," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Lelie's moveis clincher

It was a feast-or-famine call by the Broncos, and thanks to an extraordinary move by receiver Ashley Lelie, Denver feasted on a win.

With the Ravens in good position to get the ball back, Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer faked a handoff up the middle and gave the ball to Lelie on a second-and-eight with 1:42 left in the game.

Lelie looked like he would be tackled for a loss by safety Ed Reed, but Lelie juked Reed, gaining 8 yards and effectively ending the game. The Ravens called their final timeout before Plummer took three straight kneel-downs.

The Ravens likely would have had about 45 seconds left if they would have forced a punt.

"[The Ravens] are so good up front," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "We ran a play before that the defensive end came down, so we knew that the around would be there. But Ed Reed did a great job snuffing it out. He came up, and Ashley just made the guy miss. Ashley made a nice cut there, and it was nice to get that first down so we could just kneel on the ball."

Broncos grounded

The Broncos entered the game with the league's second-best rushing attack but failed to mount much of a physical presence against the Ravens' front seven.

Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson and Ron Dayne combined for 91 yards on 28 carries, with only one of those runs reaching double digits.

"We just seem to match up well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I've said it before with some of the successes we've had against them. I don't know if it's any more technical than that."

Questionable Blocking?

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