CLEVELAND – Jamal Lewis didn’t have the glittery statistics, rarely escaping the grasp of the Baltimore Ravens’ aggressive defense.
However, the former Baltimore star running back emerged with something more substantial during his first encounter against his old team: a 27-13 victory Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Although Lewis was shut down with 64 yards on 23 carries for a 2.8 average, he did score a disputed touchdown. And he got the win in his first game against Baltimore, which cut him loose Feb. 28 rather than pay him a $5 million roster bonus.
"It was a great feeling to come out on top and beat up on my old team," Lewis said. ”Phil Savage knew what kind of back I was. The Ravens felt I was kind of washed up and didn’t have that burst any more and here I am. We’re being successful running the football and have a great offensive line. I’m happy.”
Still, Lewis never was able to really get away from middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who was constantly in his ear after tackles.
"Ray talked all day," Lewis said. "He kept saying, ‘This is me. You know I’m coming.’ It sounded like a practice back when I was in Baltimore.
"Ray, Ed Reed, all those guys came up to me and wished me well and said I played a good game."
Lewis did have a 28-yard run up the left sideline, stiff-arming safety Dawan Landry.
"Ray didn’t say anything then," Lewis said. "I wish we could have had many more."
Lewis scored on a 1-yard run where he didn’t appear to break the plane of the goal line, but Ravens coach Brian Billick didn’t call for an instant-replay challenge in time before the extra point.
It was the first touchdown run the Ravens have allowed all year and the first one given up in 10 games.
"That No. 31, he knew it was going to be a long day," Ray Lewis said. "That’s the beauty of it. Playing against a former teammate, it’s a warrior going against a warrior.
"I don’t think it was too friendly anytime you’re hitting somebody. I take my hat off to him."
INJURY UPDATE: Tight end Todd Heap injured his hamstring, and didn’t return.
He was uncertain of his status for next week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
"I wouldn’t say it’s horrible," Heap said.
Backup tight end Daniel Wilcox injured his foot and didn’t return. "I’m just real sore right now," he said. "I’ve got to wait and see about next week."
Return specialist Yamon Figurs suffered a shoulder stinger and didn’t return. Center Mike Flynn bruised his leg, but it wasn’t considered serious. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) was supposed to be a game-time decision, but he said he didn’t attempt to test it out during warmup drills.
Quarterback Steve McNair said he slightly twisted his groin pull, but it wasn’t serious and he played the entire game.
"I think I just twisted it," McNair said. "The guy held onto my leg. It was a little stretch. It wasn’t a major factor. It was one of those moments where it tightened up initially. I feel good."
SCORING DEBUT: Quinn Sypniewski scored his first NFL touchdown, cradling a 4-yard score from McNair in the fourth quarter.
"It was a flat to a wheel route," Sypniewski said. "They brought a bunch of guys and I was able to get open."
The joy of his inaugural touchdown was dimmed somewhat by the outcome of the game.
"It’s a little bittersweet," said Sypniewski, who caught a career-high six passes for 34 yards. "I told [equipment manager] Ed Carroll to not put the score on the ball for me."
With Heap and Wilcox hurt, Sypniewski was the lone healthy tight end remaining.
"It’s the next guy up," Sypniewski said. "That’s the bummer about NFL football, sometimes guys get hurt."
SACKLESS: The Ravens finished second in the league in sacks last season, but were never able to sack former Baltimore quarterback Derek Anderson. He took advantage of the extra time to throw two touchdown passes.
"There’s nothing wrong," said linebacker Bart Scott, who, along with Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, has no sacks this season. "We’ve got the personnel. We’ve got the scheme.
"There’s nothing wrong that’s not fixable. We gave up big plays. They have a great offense over there, they spent a lot of money on their offensive line and we didn’t respond to the best of our ability."
Scott was credited with the lone quarterback hit. The last time Cleveland didn’t allow a sack against Baltimore was October 21, 2000.
QUOTABLE: McNair after the Ravens converted just 1 of 4 red-zone shots: "From the 20 to the 20, we’re the best in the National Football League. The main focus for the rest of the season is the red zone. We need to concentrate more or focus more on doing more things in the red zone to put into the game plan."
FINAL WORD: Browns linebacker Willie McGinest on beating the Ravens: "They’re supposed to be the physical bullies, but we hit them back."
QUICK HITS: Cornerback Chris McAlister was flagged for offsides, according to the official statistics, on the Browns’ missed field goal, giving Cleveland a first down on the drive that led to Lewis’ touchdown run. He was surprised that he was flagged. "I wasn’t even rushing on that play," he said. "Wow, they said it was me. I guess the refs always get it right." … One week after being named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week with a 75-yard touchdown return, Figurs lost a fumble and averaged just 23.4 yards on kickoffs and had an eight-yard punt return. … Scott led Baltimore with eight tackles followed by Landry’s seven. … The Ravens deactivated Ogden, defensive end Trevor Pryce (broken wrist), cornerback Samari Rolle (undisclosed illness), kicker Rhys Lloyd, running backs Cory Ross and Mike Anderson, linebacker Edgar Jones and third quarterback Troy Smith.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
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