- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Although aggressive defense still best characterizes the Baltimore Ravens, one thing has changed since coordinator Marvin Lewis masterminded a record-setting unit that pointed the way toward a Super Bowl title three seasons ago.

The Ravens now use a 3-4 alignment, not Lewis’ 4-3 set that allowed the fewest points (165) over a 16-game schedule. But according to Baltimore coach Brian Billick, it was Lewis who first brought up the possibility of the 3-4.

Today at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati head coach Lewis goes against many of the players who helped gain him prominence as the Bengals (1-4) play the first-place Ravens (3-2) in a key AFC North game for both teams.

“Actually, I credit Marvin with us going to the 3-4,” Billick said. “It was Marvin’s initial suggestion, as we were approaching the end of the 2001 season, that we ought to think heavily about going to the 3-4, based on the transition of people we knew were going to leave in 2002. So I’ve got to give Marvin credit for that initial observation.”

Lewis’ current job probably wouldn’t have been possible if not for Billick. Lewis was the only assistant Billick retained when he took over after the Ravens fired coach Ted Marchibroda and his staff following a 1998 season in which the Ravens were 22nd in the league in defense.

With stars like five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis, three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware and standout young cornerback Chris McAlister, Marvin Lewis instantly became a hot coaching commodity as he crafted one of the NFL’s best defenses. The Bengals hired him after he spent last season as the Washington Redskins’ coordinator

“I think it is very good,” Lewis said of the current Ravens defense that is ranked eighth in the league. “They have some excellent players, they are having fun and they are playing fast. They are athletic and aggressive, but the big thing is that they have playmakers. They have guys who play well around the football. They are still tackling very well, and that is why they are playing well.”

Lewis’ defense will have a challenge trying the stop Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, the NFL’s leading rusher with 742 yards (a 6.5 average) and five touchdowns.

“He knows what we’re going to do, and we know what he does best,” Jamal Lewis said. “The team that plays the most physical is going to win.”

In each of Baltimore’s last four games against the Bengals, Lewis has gained more than 100 yards. With the Ravens having the NFL’s lowest-rated passing attack, it’s safe to assume the Bengals are going to get a heavy dose of Lewis today.

“We know what’s at hand,” Bengals linebacker Kevin Hardy said. “[Kyle] Boller threw the ball [only] 18 times last week. That’s attempts, not completions. So we know what they’re going to do.”

Meanwhile, the Bengals might not have their best offensive weapon. Star running back Corey Dillon missed last week’s game with a groin pull and played sparingly in three previous games. Dillon is listed as questionable for the Ravens.

But, said Billick, “I’ll be very surprised if Corey Dillon doesn’t play unless the injury is more serious than I’m aware of. He’s had basically three weeks to heal.”

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