Lewis recovered from a slow start to grind out 116 yards on 28 carries, including 90 clock-eating yards on the final three drives, and the Baltimore Ravens defense did the rest in Sunday night’s 17-10 victory over the Redskins.
“It wasn’t just me,” said Lewis, who pleaded guilty in an Atlanta court Thursday to using a cell phone to facilitate a drug buy in the summer of 2000. “This team as a whole knows how to handle adversity and knows how to keep focused and keep it going. We put that behind us. What happened off the field stayed off the field. We just put things together and showed what type of team we are.”
Lewis will serve a six-month sentence after the season ends. The NFL suspended him for two games, starting with the game against Buffalo following the bye week.
“He just took the game on his shoulders,” coach Brian Billick said. “That’s why we gave him the game ball, and I wanted to remind him we’ll be here when he gets back.”
The Ravens (3-2) held the Redskins (1-4) to 107 yards, sending Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs to his fourth straight defeat, his longest losing streak since starting 0-5 as a rookie head coach in 1981.
“It’s a miserable situation,” Gibbs said. “And it seems like when you make a mistake, it bounces right into somebody else’s hands. I told my team that I think we’re a good football team. We’ll see. We’ve got to find a way to make some of those things go our way.”
Even Deion Sanders got into the act for the Ravens, getting his first interception since coming out of retirement. The defense’s performance served as redemption after it allowed 398 yards and 27 points in a Monday night loss to Kansas City.
Appropriately enough, it was a defensive player who turned the game’s tide. Safety Ed Reed scored a touchdown by causing a fumble on a safety blitz, stopped Clinton Portis on a third-and-1 and sprung B.J. Sams for a 78-yard punt return, all in a 2 1/2 -minute span in the third quarter. As a result, the Ravens rallied from a 10-0 halftime deficit to score 14 points without their struggling offense taking the field.
Then the Ravens, led by Lewis’ punishing runs, held the ball for all but 2:27 of the fourth quarter.
“The coach called on us, and we answered,” Lewis said. “The offense had to keep it up and control the clock and pound the ball. … The offensive line said, ‘Look, this is the last one before you get the suspension. Let’s make the best of it.’ “
Washington’s only points came off second-quarter turnovers that were essentially gifts. The Redskins intercepted passes on three consecutive possessions, but they could only convert the mistakes into 10 points despite starting all three drives in Baltimore territory.
“We’ve got to get more than 100 yards offense,” Washington guard Randy Thomas said. “The defense played a heck of a game. We’ve got to show up.”
The Redskins have yet to score more than 18 points since Gibbs returned to the sidelines, and Portis caused some in-house turmoil last week with comments indicating the offense was too predictable.
Portis, bottled up by the Ravens, rushed for just 53 yards on 25 carries. He declined to speak to reporters after the game.
Both offenses had no problem living up to reputations of ineptitude. The game opened with eight straight punts. Then Boller threw his three interceptions, but two of the passes hit the receivers in the hands and the third appeared to be a miscommunication.
“There were some breakdowns, some bad throws, some bad routes, some things popped up in the air,” Billick said. “A lot of different things. You know what? Right now I really don’t care.”
Reed turned the tide practically by himself. He put the Ravens on the board when he stripped Brunell from behind, recovered the ball and ran 22 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Reed then blitzed again to stop Portis on short yardage on Washington’s next possession, setting up a punt. Rookie free agent Sams caught the punt, faked a reverse, then tiptoed down the sideline after a somersault block by Reed. Sams has returned punts for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.
The Ravens have won two of three meetings in the neighborhood rivalry since Baltimore returned to the league in 1996. … Washington safety Matt Bowen left the game with a right knee injury, and tackle Kenyatta Jones re-injured his left ankle. … Baltimore announced before the game that Chris McAlister has signed a seven-year contract, allowing the Pro Bowl cornerback to shed his unwanted franchise player tag.