Ravens, Lewis set for rematch with Browns

Saturday, November 6th 2004, 12:12 pm
By: News On 6

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Jamal Lewis couldn't have devised a better scenario for his return from an exasperating two-game suspension.

Having served his punishment for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, the 2003 rushing champion will assume his customary spot in the Baltimore Ravens' backfield Sunday night for a game against his favorite opponent, the Cleveland Browns.

The last time Lewis faced the Browns at home, he ran for an NFL-record 295 yards. He added 205 in the rematch, giving him an even 500 yards in 2003 against Cleveland _ the most yards rushing in one season against one team in league history.

Even though the Browns limited him to 57 yards on 20 carries in the opener this year, Lewis is still averaging 6.9 yards per attempt against Cleveland in seven career games.

``It is an enormous challenge playing against him. He's clearly one of the most physically gifted, talented running backs that I've ever seen,'' Browns coach Butch Davis said. ``He's got great power, great burst, great explosion. And he's got outstanding speed.''

Not only that, but Lewis is fresh and eager to play after allowing his sore body to heal during the suspension. He hated the idea of missing two games and was miserable watching the Ravens (4-3) lose last Sunday in Philadelphia. But he made good use of his time off.

``I worked out and kept my body in good condition,'' he said. ``That's all I could do.''

Lewis, who hasn't taken a solid hit since Oct. 10, hopes to make up for lost time by helping the Ravens avenge a 20-3 defeat in Cleveland two months ago.

``It's a big game,'' he said. ``Due to what happened to us last time against those guys, we really want to put it together and show we're a better team than they saw last time.''

Embarrassed by their performance against Lewis last year, the Browns (3-4) focused on team tackling and sealing the gaps at the line of scrimmage. The result was Lewis' worst rushing performance since December 2002.

``It's not like they did something really amazing,'' Lewis said. ``They just put their hats in the right places and filled the right spots.''

Lewis averaged less than 3 yards a carry and didn't have one run over 9 yards. If the Browns are to enjoy similar success Sunday night, they know they can't afford to let up for even one play.

``It is somewhat reminiscent of college days, when you played the super-talented Oklahoma teams. You'd stop them for two plays, then all of sudden they have the capability of going 85 yards in one play,'' said Davis, who coached at the University of Miami before joining the Browns in 2001. ``It just takes a tremendous effort defensively. There's no one individual responsible for trying to stop him.''

Baltimore All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden missed the September game with a knee injury, and probably will sit out this one with a hamstring pull. But the line will be enhanced by the return of center-guard Mike Flynn, who has yet to play this season because of a shoulder injury.

The Ravens have struggled in their bid to successfully defend the AFC North title, but it's a situation they've dealt with before.

``We were sitting at 4-3 last year and then went on a nice little run,'' Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. ``With Jamal coming back, it creates our balance. Everyone knows how Jamal controls the clock and how well our defense plays when Jamal controls the clock. Just with Jamal being back, I think it's time for us to get back to what we do best and go on a three- or four-game winning streak.''

Cleveland, coming off a bye, is seeking to get back into the playoff chase and complete its first season sweep of the Ravens since 2001.

For that to happen, stopping Jamal Lewis is an absolute necessity.

``It all rests on Jamal and the run game,'' Browns middle linebacker Andra Davis said. ``Everybody knows that. They know it. We know it. It's all about what we are going to do about it.''