Ravens 17, Lions 6
-- One question has loomed over the Baltimore Ravens as they have prepared for the upcoming NFL season: What will they do if the legal troubles of running back Jamal Lewis sideline the league's leading rusher for an extended period of time?
The Ravens should be all right if Chester Taylor and Musa Smith continue to perform the way they did Saturday night. The pair helped Baltimore to a 17-6 preseason win over the Detroit Lions in front of 69,552 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Taylor carried the ball 10 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns, including an 84-yard scoring dash on the first play of the second half.
Smith was the Ravens' leading receiver with four catches for 77 yards, which included one terrific 58-yarder in the third quarter.
"The last two weeks have been very, very good, very solid," Coach Brian Billick said of Taylor and Smith. "We're going to need both of them, no question about it."
The rest of the Ravens' offense was often ineffective. Outside of Taylor's one long run, the starters gained 122 yards of total offense on eight drives. Lewis, who will go to trial on federal drug conspiracy charges on Nov. 1, had four yards on four carries. Quarterback Kyle Boller was 9 of 14 for 93 yards.
Baltimore's defense was missing four potential starters -- defensive end Anthony Weaver, defensive tackle Marques Douglas, linebacker Peter Boulware and cornerback Chris McAlister -- yet it stifled the Lions, holding them to 139 yards of total offense in the first half (41 rushing).
The Ravens' defense has yielded just one touchdown -- an 81-yard reception by Philadelphia's Terrell Owens -- in three preseason games. The reserves have also made plays; safety Gerome Sapp recovered one fumble, caused another and intercepted a pass in the second half.
"We still have some missing pieces to fill, but the pieces we have in now are giving us what we need," said linebacker Ray Lewis, who slammed rookie running back Kevin Jones to the turf in the first quarter with such force that Jones's helmet popped off. "As you see, the results are showing up right now."
Detroit led 6-3 following a numbing first half, in which the teams combined for 14 penalties. The only excitement was provided by rookie punt returner B.J. Sams, who was making his Ravens debut.
Sams, who missed nearly all of training camp with a broken thumb, returned the first punt he fielded 89 yards for a touchdown, but the score was waved off because Smith ran into punter Nick Harris. Sams was officially credited with 40 yards on four returns.
It was the kind of performance the Ravens were waiting to see from Sams, who was brought in to challenge incumbent Lamont Brightful.
Sams was able to start fielding punts in practice during the final week of camp, and he displayed a sure set of hands -- despite playing with a heavily wrapped thumb.
He was cleared to play earlier this week.
"You see the potential," Ravens' special teams coordinator Gary Zauner said. "The kid has talent. We had to see if he could do it with the lights on. He did."
Ravens Notes: Deion Sanders, the seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback, will report to the Ravens on Wednesday, according to a report on FoxSports.com that cited no sources. But a Ravens official said that the team had not been notified of Sanders's plans. . . . Baltimore fullback Ovie Mughelli sprained his left knee and did not return. Wide receiver Devard Darling aggravated a quadriceps strain during warmups and did not play. . . . The Ravens were without three starters on offense: Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap (shoulder), center Mike Flynn (collarbone) and wide receiver Travis Taylor (groin).