CINCINNATI (AP)—Jamal Lewis up the middle. Jamal Lewis around the end. And, with the game on the line, Jamal Lewis rumbling toward the end zone.
After two subpar efforts, the Baltimore Ravens’ game-breaker is back at it.
Lewis ran for 186 yards—the fifth-best total of his career—and broke a 75-yard touchdown run Sunday that clinched a 23-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
It was vintage Lewis.
“It was time,” said Lewis, who hadn’t come close to 100 yards in a game this season. “I’m a patient guy. I just wait for things to unfold.”
When Lewis is off and running, things usually unfold nicely for the Ravens (2-1), who rely on their punishing back. Kyle Boller ran for a touchdown and threw for another, but had two costly fumbles that kept it close.
Lewis needed only 13 seconds to finish it off midway through the fourth quarter.
He took a handoff, changed direction twice, left two tacklers empty-handed and sped off, pulling so far ahead of the defense that everyone slowed once he reached the 20-yard line.
The Bengals (1-2) always have trouble bringing him down. Lewis has topped 100 yards in all seven of his career games against Cincinnati, including a 180-yard effort last December.
“Jamal’s one terrific player, but you’ve got to tackle or you can’t win,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We stayed with the script and got back into the game, but that long run they got at the end was disheartening.”
Until Sunday, the record-setting back who topped 2,000 yards last year had little room to run. He managed only 57 in a season-opening loss to Cleveland— a team he tormented for 500 yards last season—and Pittsburgh limited him to 62 yards a week later.
The Bengals were much easier to crack.
Lewis powered through defenders who couldn’t get a grip. They clawed at his shoulder pads and lunged at his thighs, then found themselves flailing on the ground while Lewis went on his way.
“He’s an All-Pro running back, but we helped him a lot,” linebacker Kevin Hardy said.
The Ravens needed it. Leading receiver Todd Heap is sidelined by a severe ankle injury, and Boller is still finding his way. The second-year quarterback was 11-of-18 for 126 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run and a 38-yard TD pass to Randy Hymes that put the Ravens up 17-0.
But for every good moment, there was a bad one. Boller fumbled on a scramble 2 yards from the end zone and lost the ball without being touched on a second-half run, setting up the last of Cincinnati’s three field goals.
“I’m still learning,” Boller said. “I’ve got to hold onto the ball sometimes.”
His counterpart had a painful time trying to stay on his feet.
For the second consecutive game, the Bengals’ offense failed to score a touchdown behind second-year quarterback Carson Palmer, who was hit often by a blitzing defense.
Linebacker Ray Lewis—Palmer’s co-star in an offbeat television commercial last year—drew a 15-yard penalty for slamming into the quarterback’s head after he released a pass. Lewis also recovered Palmer’s first-half fumble.
Palmer was 25-of-52 for 316 yards, but got sacked four times and threw three interceptions, two of them to safety Ed Reed near the end zone.
“You can’t get greedy,” Palmer said. “When you’re a young quarterback, you get greedy, and I have to fight that temptation. You need to develop patience. When something isn’t there, you don’t just throw it up in the air.”
At times, they looked like the old Bungles.
They were flagged for having 12 men in the huddle in the first half. Once the 5-yard penalty was stepped off, the Bengals huddled again, came to the line and discovered they had only 10 men on the field, forcing them to take a timeout.
On the kickoff following Hymes’ touchdown, Cincinnati sent only 10 men out for the return.
Ravens CB Deion Sanders, who played several years for the Reds, was inactive because of a strained hamstring. … Bengals LB Nate Webster was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with an injured right knee. He was taken for medical tests. … WR Peter Warrick, bothered by a bruised leg, left the game after a couple of series and didn’t return. … Reed has 14 interceptions in 34 career games. … It was Lewis’ 25th 100-yard game. Lewis, 25, became the fifth-youngest to reach 5,000 yards.