Ravens 13, Jets 3
-- There is a formula the Baltimore Ravens have used to great success over the past six seasons, and they returned to it on Sunday afternoon against the New York Jets. It certainly wasn't pretty, but it was effective: The offense pounded the ball with running back Jamal Lewis, the defense made a huge goal-line stand and the Ravens won their first game of the season, 13-3, at M&T Bank Stadium.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. It's a very easy method with us. We run the football very well, we play hard-nosed defense," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "The day we get away from that is the day you see things don't go our way.
"The business likes high-scoring games. The business likes flash. We're not flashy. We're old school."
Baltimore (1-2) got away from that philosophy in its first two games, losses to Indianapolis and Tennessee. The Ravens attempted nearly three times as many pass plays as rushing plays, and they failed to control the ball, leaving their defense on the field for extended stretches. But the Ravens took advantage of an unusually early bye and spent two weeks plotting a return to their smash-mouth identity.
The Ravens ran the ball 45 times for 115 yards. They held the ball for 38 minutes. Jamal Lewis, who was held to nine yards on 10 carries against the Titans, gained 81 yards on 29 carries. He did not break a big run (his longest carry was just nine yards), but said that wasn't his focus anyway; he wanted to just grind it out.
"He was outstanding," Coach Brian Billick said. "Gutsy, tough. That's as physical a front seven as we will play."
Baltimore is 20-3 when Lewis has 25 or more carries.
"We needed a bye just to regroup, to find our identity," Jamal Lewis sad. "I think we did that."
The Ravens were lucky to be facing the reeling Jets (1-3). New York lost its top two quarterbacks, Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler, in last week's loss to Jacksonville. Third-year pro Brooks Bollinger made his first NFL start.
Bollinger, who entered the game having taken 19 snaps in his professional career, didn't wilt under the Ravens' pressure, completing 14 of 28 passes for 149 yards. The very first time he dropped back to pass, he was leveled by Ray Lewis just moments after releasing the ball (the pass fell incomplete). That was a sign of things to come -- the Ravens, who had one sack in their first two games, sacked Bollinger five times.
But the Ravens' main focus coming into the game was Curtis Martin, who ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns against them last season. Martin was limited to 30 yards on 13 carries. Baltimore held the Jets to 28 rushing yards, which tied for the fourth-lowest total given up by the Ravens in franchise history.
"He's one of the top backs in the league, year in and year out," defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said of Martin. "With a young quarterback, we knew that's what we had to do."
The Ravens held a 6-0 lead at halftime thanks to two field goals from Matt Stover, and that seemed like it would be more than enough to hold off the punchless Jets, who were averaging 1.9 yards per offensive play and had crossed midfield once.
New York got a big break early in the third quarter when Jamal Lewis fumbled near midfield, and linebacker Victor Hobson recovered the ball and started charging down the sideline toward the end zone. Tight end Todd Heap ran down Hobson and shoved him out of bounds with his shoulder at the 1-yard line, preventing what would have been the third touchdown scored against the Baltimore offense this season.
Heap's hustle turned out to be the most important play he made in the game, because Baltimore's defense kept the Jets out of the end zone. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs stuffed Martin at the line for on first down, the Ravens strung out Bollinger on a bootleg and forced him out of bounds for a two-yard loss on second down, and Jarret Johnson and Suggs stopped Martin for a one-yard loss on third down. Mike Nugent converted the 21-yard field goal to cut the Ravens' lead to three, but the stand was a victory for Baltimore.
"That's our identity check," Suggs said. "We claim to be this great defense, but it was yet to be seen until today. But we showed up, and that's how we're going to play for the rest of the season, because we know we can do it, that's been our identity for years."
Said Martin: "That's as bad as it gets. There's no reason why we can't get it in the end zone."
That was the turning point of the game. The defensive stand inspired the offense, which immediately went out and put together its best drive of the game, a 13-play, 71-yard effort that resulted in a one-yard touchdown leap from Jamal Lewis. Quarterback Anthony Wright hit Heap across the middle for a 24-yard pickup that pushed the Ravens into the red zone.
Wright was efficient in his second start of the season, completing 15 of 21 passes for 144 yards. He threw one interception, off of an ill-advised flea-flicker early in the fourth quarter; his pass into double coverage was picked off by safety Erik Coleman in the end zone. But the mistake hardly mattered, with the way the Baltimore defense was dominating the Jets.
"It's like, it's about time!" Suggs said of the win. "Now let's get on a roll. Let this thing start snowballing."
Ravens Notes: Defensive end Anthony Weaver was taken from the field in a cart early in the third quarter, and X-rays on his right foot revealed a dislocated toe. He will undergo an MRI exam on Monday. Safety Ed Reed suffered a concussion but returned to the game. Quarterback Kyle Boller (hyperextended big toe) is scheduled to have the cast on his right foot removed on Monday. . . .
The Ravens, who were penalized 18 times for 118 yards in their first two games, were whistled for three infractions for a total of 19 yards. The announced crowd of 70,479 was the second-largest in Baltimore history.