- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Don’t get Jamal Lewis wrong. He wants the football. He wants a shot at the NFL’s single-season rushing record. But he won’t have a chance if the Baltimore Ravens don’t start throwing the ball a little.

The AFC North leaders have the NFL’s worst passing attack. In Sunday’s 26-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, for instance, the Ravens attempted 18 passes, and Lewis wound up with a sprained shoulder after rushing 21 times for 131 yards on a 96-degree day. He wants to see the passing game pick up so teams can’t stack against the run.

“I don’t mind carrying the football, but eventually it’s going to come to the point where [rookie quarterback Kyle Boller] is going to have to start to throw passes downfield,” Lewis said.

Lewis, who is the NFL’s leading rusher with 742 yards on 115 carries with five touchdowns, has had both knees reconstructed in his football career. There’s only so much pounding the 240-pound running back can take.

Coach Brian Billick defended Lewis for speaking out.

“I don’t think he’s echoing anything else the receivers aren’t saying, the quarterbacks aren’t saying, we’re not saying, what the defense is not saying,” Billick said. “These guys know you have to have balance to a certain degree.

“Those of you that want to intimate that there’s frustration or angst in the locker room or division, you’re wrong. That’s not what that’s about. … [Lewis] made a valid observation, and it’s not one anyone’s made differently.”

After five games, the 3-2 Ravens are averaging 97.2 passing yards. Boller has a 48.9 passer rating after completing 65 of 125 for 543 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions.

The receivers are partially to blame, dropping passes and proving unable to stretch defenses. On Sunday against the Cardinals, Boller completed nine of 18 for 75 yards — the third-worst passing day in Ravens history.

“I don’t know if it’s frustrating because we are winning,” Boller said. “That’s the main thing. It’s all about getting the ‘W.’ As a quarterback, I would love to throw for 350 yards, five touchdowns and all that stuff, but when you are running the ball as well as we are, you have to continue to do that until a team can stop us. When we have the opportunity on the outside to make plays and swing the ball, we have to take advantage of that.”

Lewis is likely to have another busy workday Sunday at Cincinnati (1-4). Lewis has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his last four games against the Bengals.

“[But] I think this is the week where we’re going to go out and really show that we can throw the ball and we can catch the ball downfield,” Lewis insisted.

The Ravens have the same agenda as their 2000 Super Bowl champions: run the ball well, play outstanding defense and make big plays on special teams. Baltimore did just that last Sunday, when the offense failed to produce a touchdown.

Note — Ravens safety Ed Reed was named AFC special teams player of the week for a blocked punt that he picked up and returned 22 yards for a touchdown against the Cardinals.

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