- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

BALTIMORE — The J-Train and reality slammed into the NFL’s feel-good story of the year with an all too familiar ending.

Whoever said the Cincinnati Bengals have arrived as contenders never consulted with the Ravens. With sole possession of the AFC North lead at stake, the Bengals rolled over for the seventh consecutive time in Baltimore.

Jamal Lewis rushed for 180 yards and scored a career-high three touchdowns, and the Ravens’ opportunistic defense forced the Bengals into five turnovers as Baltimore reclaimed the division lead with a 31-13 victory yesterday before 69,468 at M&T; Bank Stadium.

The win gives the Ravens (8-5) a one-game lead on the Bengals (7-6) in the division and games remaining against three teams with losing records. It was the 50th win of coach Brian Billick’s career and a franchise-record fifth straight at home.

“There was a sour taste in our mouth the last time we played them because we knew we didn’t play our football game and, yeah, they were riding high and had done a couple of things, but I told [the Bengals] they had to come into Baltimore sooner or later,” said Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis.

Marvin Lewis, the Bengals’ first-year coach and architect of the record-setting Ravens defense during the franchise’s Super Bowl-winning season three years ago, did not devise a game plan to stop Jamal Lewis, who rushed for more than 100 yards for the sixth straight game against the Bengals.

“You have to do a good job of tackling or he’ll run right through you like he did today,” Marvin Lewis said of the Ravens’ star running back.

Lewis scored on runs of 1, 3 and 13 yards, and his three-touchdown day moved him into first place on the Ravens’ all-time scoring list for a nonkicker with 24 TDs, two ahead of Jermaine Lewis.

Though Marvin Lewis is considered a defensive genius, the Bengals couldn’t stop Jamal Lewis, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,622 yards. In fact, the Ravens’ 32nd-rated passing attack made a little noise, too.

Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright, who made his fourth start for injured rookie Kyle Boller, tossed an 8-yard, second-quarter touchdown to wide receiver Marcus Robinson that gave the Ravens a 14-3 lead. For the game, Wright completed eight of 19 for 145 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Just before halftime, Wright connected with Travis Taylor on a 64-yard bomb that set up Matt Stover’s 22-yard field goal that gave the Ravens a 17-10 lead.

“[Marvin Lewis] didn’t know what poison he wanted to pick,” Wright said of the Bengals’ defensive game plan. “If you try to stop Jamal, then we’re just going to kill you outside. If you try to play cover 2, then Jamal is going to kill you. Pick your poison. That’s what this offense is about right now.”

Led by Ray Lewis, the Ravens’ rowdy defense was magnificent. Baltimore tied a season high by sacking quarterback Jon Kitna six times for minus-46 yards. A third-quarter sack by rookie pass-rushing specialist Terrell Suggs forced Kitna to fumble at the Bengals’ 17. Suggs, whose two sacks gave him 10 for the season, also recovered Kitna’s drop when it was still a game with the Ravens leading 17-13.

Two plays later, Jamal Lewis scored on a 3-yard run that made it 24-13, and the rout was on. Kitna accounted for four of the Bengals five turnovers, including fourth-quarter interceptions by Ray Lewis and safety Will Demps.

The Bengals’ explosive offense came into this game averaging 342.6 yards but gained just 268 as the Ravens won their third straight game and fifth of their last seven.

Outside linebackers Adalius Thomas and Peter Boulware also had sacks for the Ravens, but Thomas left in the second quarter with a broken right elbow that will require surgery.

“Our psyche will be fine,” Marvin Lewis said of the Bengals. “We’ll prove what we’re made of these next three weeks. The fun part of this is, we get a chance to prove that we have some substance to us.”

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