J. Lewis-Ravens talk smacks of rivalry

September 27, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

If Jamal Lewis really knows where to find the weak spot in the Ravens' defense, he'll stop for a nice brunch on the way to Sunday's game at Cleveland Browns Stadium and just show up for the fourth quarter.

Surely, he doesn't think he's going to run through the Ravens' defensive line the way he did against the Cincinnati Bengals a couple of weeks ago, especially when he followed up that 216-yard performance with 56 yards against an Oakland Raiders team that might give up 3.7 yards per rush to Appalachian State.

I'm not sure what he was thinking when he told Ravens reporters on yesterday's conference call that he might have an edge over other running backs who face the Ravens because he knows what they do best and "what they don't do best."

It probably never occurred to him that such a seemingly low-impact response could rise to the level of trash talk in Week 4 of the NFL season, but we're talking about an otherwise nondescript AFC North matchup that was begging for a sexy Jamal-versus-his-old-team story line.

His comment made perfect logical sense. He practiced against the Ravens' defense for years, so it's fair to assume he has some insight into the tendencies of the players on the other side of the line as well as the mind-set of the coaching staff.

He articulated that concept in a fairly diplomatic manner, but by the time everyone played telephone with that comment, it was related to several Ravens as Jamal saying he knows his old team's weaknesses and will be able to exploit them Sunday.

"I guess he's going to expose them," linebacker Terrell Suggs said, "then I guess he'll go for another 200 yards."

Suggs was smiling when he said that. He knows the importance of good bulletin-board material, even if you have to embellish it a little. Lewis wasn't looking to get under anyone's skin - he's not the type, and everything else he said yesterday was respectful of his former teammates - but that didn't keep the Ravens from jumping at the opportunity to stir things up.

"He knows whose weaknesses?" linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Our weaknesses?"

Well, it's not a small club, if you include Jamal and everybody on Kurt Warner's buddy list.

The Ravens do have issues right now. They might have the best defense in football for 45 minutes, but they've allowed an average of 11.7 points per game in the fourth quarter. That's just great if you like that feeling you get in your stomach on the down slope of a roller coaster.

There's nothing wrong with a little suspense, as coach Brian Billick pointed out the other day. Nearly half of NFL games this season (23 of 48) have been decided by seven points or fewer, so you could make the case that the teams that win the close ones are actually better for it.

Of course, you also could make the case that the Ravens should have beaten the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals without requiring an antiperspirant, but they would be 2-1 either way.

Don't be surprised if Sunday's game in Cleveland is another close one, especially if Jamal really does have something up his sleeve. Though the Browns are not a great team, they've shown the ability to put points on the scoreboard and have a history of playing the Ravens tough, regardless of the relative strength of each team.

"You've got to finish," linebacker Bart Scott said, "because there aren't too many times when a team is going to let you escape. You let them off the hook and then they let you off the hook. ... It's not going to happen too many times. Not in this league."

Maybe Jamal didn't realize how his comments would be taken yesterday, but Scott had to know what he was doing when asked what it would be like at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday.

"Isn't the stadium next to a junkyard," he said. " ... Oh, that's the [training] facility. The stadium is on a landfill. That's what it smells like. It [the turf] never dries. It's built on a landfill and it's toxic, and I think it gets to some of the fans' heads a little bit."

Now, both teams can break out the thumbtacks.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Saturdays and Sundays.

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