- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis turned the Cleveland Browns defense into NFL laughingstocks when he rushed for an NFL-record 295 yards the first time these division rivals met in Week2.

In tomorrow’s rematch in Cleveland, with the Ravens’ playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Browns’ young defense is out to prove it is better than the one Lewis destroyed in September.

“We are very determined,” said Browns middle linebacker Andra Davis of stopping Lewis, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,747 yards. “We were embarrassed last time with him breaking the record and everything. What is done is done. We have an opportunity to go out there on Sunday and try to stop him.”

While the Browns’ 4-10 season hasn’t gone as expected, Cleveland has a chance to play spoiler against the Ravens (8-6).

The Ravens have lost four straight road games while the Browns have dropped four in a row overall and seven of the past eight. The Browns could have a say in who wins the AFC North because they play co-leader Cincinnati next week.

“You would like to put yourself in the situation to maybe be the spoiler, but this isn’t about either of those teams for us,” said Cleveland coach Butch Davis. “This is more about the Cleveland Browns. We are trying to develop and play well and get a lot of good young guys a lot of experience. We are more concerned about our growth and development than we are about having any kind of impact on the division race.”

Davis’ 20th-rated run defense that allows 123 rushing yards a game, won’t have much of a say today if it can’t slow down Lewis. He needs 253 yards in the next two games to become the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

In five career games against the Browns, Lewis has rushed for a staggering 838 yards — the most against any Ravens opponent. Only once in five games have the Browns held him under 100 yards. In the first record-setting meeting between these teams, Lewis scored on touchdown runs of 82 and 63 yards.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said the Browns should be embarrassed for what happened in that 33-13 loss.

“How could they not be?” Billick said. “This is a division game. They want to finish out strong. I’m sure they can’t feel good about what happened the last time, and they’re playing very well defensively right now. They’re taking a lot of pride in that, so I imagine they have in their minds a score to settle, and it’s understandable.”

The last time the teams met, Kelly Holcomb was the Browns’ quarterback. Holcomb was benched two weeks ago in favor of Tim Couch, who has played well in posting a 90-plus quarterback rating.

Couch has started six games this season with a 2-4 record and has directed the Browns to more than 20 points in three of his starts. Without star running back William Green, who has been suspended by the league for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Couch and a talented receiving corps give the Browns their best shot at an upset.

“Whatever they are doing over there, let them keep doing it,” said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who was listed as questionable in the midweek injury report with a sore right shoulder. “Let’s go in there, do what we do, come out with a victory and come home.”

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