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BALTIMORE — Only two games into Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billickâ€™s reign as the offensive coordinator, at least one element is emerging as a defining characteristic. Billick and quarterback Steve McNair appear to be intent on distributing the football to as many people as possible.
In a 26-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, McNair and three running backs rushed for a combined 129 yards on 38 carries while McNair completed passes to seven different receivers.
Most notably, McNair connected with wide receiver Mark Clayton for a career-high tying eight receptions for 73 yards and tight end Todd Heap for four catches and a game-high 84 yards.
â€œThatâ€™s a key thing,â€ McNair said. â€œI think weâ€™re really using all our weapons offensively. I think it was Mark and Toddâ€™s day. Thatâ€™s what this offense is all about, and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re capable of doing.â€
Again, the Ravens employed a heavy dosage of play-action and inserted a few other new wrinkles.
They didnâ€™t use the spread formation much after using it liberally in last week’s 35-22 win over the New Orleans Saints, but have scored 61 points since Billick took over the play-calling after firing offensive coordinator Jim Fassel.
â€œWeâ€™re making sure they canâ€™t key on any one guy,â€ Heap said. â€œItâ€™s going to be a staple in our offense. Itâ€™s something to look forward to, seeing a lot of guys make plays.â€
Meanwhile, running back Jamal Lewis grinded out 72 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. He averaged just three yards per carry, but helped Baltimore control the clock and kept the Bengals’ dangerous offense off the field.
"We used some good clock management," Lewis said. "That’s Brian Billick. He coached another good game offensively and put us in the best position to go out and let the playmakers make plays."
BOULWARE HONORED: The Ravens officially inducted four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware into their Ring of Honor as he became the first player drafted by the team who retired as a Raven to receive that accolade.
His name was added to the club level faÃ§ade alongside former team owner Art Modell, former teammates Michael McCrary and Earnest Byner along with Johnny Unitas and the other Baltimore Coltsâ€™ Hall of Fame selections.
â€œI donâ€™t like to get too emotional up there, but I was fighting back tears, I was fighting back the emotions,â€ said Boulware, the Ravensâ€™ fourth overall draft pick in 1997 out of Florida State who retired after the 2005 season as the teamâ€™s all-time leading pass rusher with 70 career sacks. â€œI tell you, it was one of the most special moments of my life and Iâ€™ll never forget it.
â€œIâ€™m privileged to be a part of the history. Not only to win on the field, but to have a tradition of great players. I think thatâ€™s what Baltimore is starting here.â€
The Ravensâ€™ marching band spelled out Boulwareâ€™s old No. 58 at midfield, and he was accompanied to the ceremony by his wife, children and parents. A taped congratulatory message featuring his younger brother, Seattle Seahawks safety Michael Boulware, was displayed on the end-zone video screens, and it affected Boulware immensely.
"It was so special to see what he said about me, the influence I had over his life,â€ said Boulware, the former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. â€œThatâ€™s when I was fighting back the tears the most. That is incredible. It was special.â€
ANDERSON: The Ravens unveiled a new wrinkle in Billickâ€™s playbook in the first quarter as backup running back Mike Anderson carried the football twice on direct shotgun snaps with McNair out of the game and Anderson lining up at quarterback.
Anderson gained only four yards, though, with Lewis scoring three plays later.
â€œThey picked the best guy for that,â€ Lewis said. â€œItâ€™s something we worked on, and itâ€™s a good way to get Mike in the game and give him some touches.â€
A LITTLE IRONIC: On Saturday, cornerback Samari Rolle viewed a video clip of safety Ed Reed scoring a touchdown for the University of Miami against Boston College on a lateral. Just a day later, Rolle intercepted Carson Palmer’s first pass of the game and returned it 24 yards before handing off to Reed, who burst forward 25 yards for a touchdown.
"It’s funny, because last night he saw the play when I got the ball from the guy after I asked for it,â€ Reed said. â€œI didn’t take it, he gave it to me."
TRAINING ROOM: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis experienced a scare when safety Ed Reedâ€™s knee collided with his spinal column. â€œFriendly fire,â€ said Lewis, who was down for a few minutes before re-entering the game and allowing a touchdown run when he was driven into the end zone by Bengals runner Rudi Johnson. â€œItâ€™s just like a freaky incident. I turned my back to him, and the ball of his knee caught me in my spine. Itâ€™s like that tingly feeling, not in my legs, though.
â€œWhen I went back in there and I hit Rudi, I was like â€˜Oh my God, itâ€™s not ready.â€™ I played through it and through the grace of God, I can walk so everything is good.â€
Reed was shaken up, too, but continued to play. Heap injured his ankle in the first quarter, but remained in the game. Afterward, he declared himself healthy enough to play next week.
INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks David Pittman and Corey Ivy, running backs P.J. Daniels and Cory Ross, linebacker Dan Cody, offensive guard Ikechuku Ndukwe, wide receiver Devard Darling and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.
QUICK HITS: The Ravens improved to 13-8 all-time against the Bengals and 8-3 against them in Baltimore after winning their seventh game in their past eight home games dating back to 2005. â€¦ The Ravens improved to 43-1 under Billick when leading by at least 14 points. â€¦ Running back Jamal Lewis scored the 40th touchdown of his career in the first quarter. It was his ninth against the Bengals, marking the most heâ€™s had against any NFL team. â€¦ The Ravens returned their fourth interception for a touchdown, giving them three in the past two games. When the Ravens score on defense, they are 26-4 and 15-2 since 2003. â€¦ The Ravens extended their franchise-best interception and sack streak to eight games. â€¦ Linebacker Adalius Thomas registered a sack and leads the team with seven. â€¦ Cornerback Chris McAlister intercepted his fourth pass of the season and the 20th of his career. â€¦ Running back Musa Smith gained a career-high 46 yards on three carries, including a career-long 30-yard burst. â€¦ Bengals kicker Shayne Grahamâ€™s 51-yard field goal marked the first points scored against Baltimore in the third quarter this season. â€¦ Rookie tight end Quinn Sypniewski made his first career start. Carson Palmerâ€™s 71-yard pass to Chris Henry is the Bengalsâ€™ longest play this season and a career-long for Henry.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland