CLEVELAND — Browns running back Jamal Lewis didn’t mince any words in getting his teammates ready to play the Ravens.
“I told everyone, ‘Those guys don’t think we can beat them,’ and I know that having played in Baltimore the last seven years,’’ he said. “It seemed to work because it kind of got the guys mad and got them going.
“We gave a great team effort today. I hope we can make it a habit.’’
Lewis continued to lead his new squad by example on Sunday afternoon, grinding out 64 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown in Cleveland’s 27-13 upset of the Ravens.
Baltimore’s career rushing leader only had one gain longer than 8 yards on the day — a 28-yarder in which he dispatched Dawan Landry with a stiff-arm — but the pounding he put on the Ravens’ defense kept them honest and on the field for prolonged stretches.
To put his performance in perspective, Lewis ran the football on exactly half of the Browns’ 46 offensive plays.
“I know this win was an important one for Jamal, to beat his old team,’’ Browns coach Romeo Crennel said.
Wide receiver Joshua Cribbs echoed that sentiment, saying, “We wanted to win this for Jamal and for this franchise.’’
Having been set free by the Ravens just six months ago, Lewis made no bones about how important getting revenge was to him.
The 27-year-old said he took everything about his non-signing personally, especially the many comments out of Baltimore that questioned how much shelf life he had left.
Instead of blasting back verbally, Lewis has answered his critics between the hashmarks by gaining 371 yards and averaging 4.9 yards a carry in Cleveland’s first four games.
“I had to calm myself down on Monday, so I wouldn’t get too tired before the game even got here,’’ admitted Lewis, who is on pace to gain 1,113 yards this season. “They felt I was kind of washed up and didn’t have the burst anymore. Luckily, (Cleveland general manager) Phil Savage knew me and picked me up.
“I never had any doubts about myself and getting the opportunity to prove them wrong. I knew I still had a lot of football left in me.’’
The Browns scored their initial first-quarter touchdown of the season when Joe Jurevicius caught a 2-yard pass from Derek Anderson on the game’s opening drive. It was set up by Joshua Cribbs’ 41-yard kickoff return.
“Josh started it off and everyone got fired up and we built on it from there,’’ Crennel said.
• Braylon Edwards blew by Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister to make a 78-yard TD reception in stride. It was the longest completion of Anderson’s career.
• Cleveland did not punt in the first half.
• Leigh Bodden recorded his second interception of the year to take over the team lead.
• Phil Dawson missed a
42-yard field goal, but had it wiped out by an offsides penalty on Baltimore. He made his other two tries, making him 16-for-17 lifetime against the Ravens.
• The 27 points tied the most the Browns have ever scored against Baltimore.
Running back Willis McGahee posted his second straight
100-yard game against the Browns, rushing for 104 on just 14 carries. He gained 105 yards against Cleveland while playing for the Bills in 2004.
• Rookie return specialist Yamon Figurs fumbled on a kickoff when Darnell Dinkins forced the ball free.
• Matt Stover, the fifth-leading scorer in NFL history, only made 2-of-4 field goal attempts. The one-time Cleveland kicker entered the day ranked third
all-time with an .839 career percentage.
“You never want to miss one, let alone more than one,’’ he said. “If I would have made those two field goals, we would have only been down by eight points at the end.’’
• Steve McNair had 215 of his 307 passing yards after halftime. The 13th-year pro’s 33 completions were a career high and came on 53 attempts.
• The Ravens did not have to punt.
Baltimore coach Brian Billick failed on a fourth-quarter replay challenge and was unable to throw his red flag in time on a key play in the second period. Lewis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:52 left in the first half to put the Browns up 24-3.
It was fairly clear to the naked eye — and confirmed by a goal-line camera shot — that the ball did not reach the end zone, even with Lewis’ arm stretched out as far as possible. Billick, however, did not toss his flag on the field before Cleveland kicked the subsequent extra point.
“There were a number of things,’’ he said. “(The officials) told me it was second down when it was third down. They told me it was third down when it was second down. The officiating matched our play.’’
Keep the change
One week after missing a critical block in the Browns’ two-point loss in Oakland, Nat Dorsey was replaced by Eric Steinbach on the field goal protection team.
To center Ryan Pontbriand’s left now are Seth McKinney, Ethan Kelley, Steinbach and Darnell Dinkins. That unit was flawless on two attempts against Baltimore, but Steinbach’s afternoon wasn’t perfect as he suffered a stinger in the second quarter.
“He got a little burner, but he came back into the game, so we’re in good shape (injury wise),’’ Crennel said.
Wall of fame
The Browns did not allow a sack for the second time in three weeks and only allowed the Ravens one official “quarterback hit’’ on Anderson.
“It brings us tremendous pride to give up no sacks, especially with the way Derek is playing,’’ rookie tackle Joe Thomas said. “He’s really understanding the game plans, knowing the reads and getting rid of the ball when he needs to.’’
After giving up six sacks in its season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, Cleveland has allowed one in the three games since.
Out of action
The Browns’ inactives were defensive end Orpheus Roye (knee), punter Dave Zastudil (back), cornerback Gary Baxter (knees), running back Jerome Harrison, offensive linemen Kelly Butler and Isaac Sowells, and wide receiver Travis Wilson. Ken Dorsey was their third quarterback.
Baltimore did not dress cornerback Samari Rolle, tackle Jonathan Ogden, running backs Mike Anderson and Cory Ross, defensive tackle Trevor Pryce, kicker Rhys Lloyd and linebacker Edgar Jones. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith of Ohio State was the third QB. The Ravens lost tight ends Todd Heap (hamstring) and Daniel Wilcox (foot) midway through the contest to injuries.
The Ravens lead the all-time series 11-6, but had their edge at Cleveland Browns Stadium cut to 5-4.
• A sellout crowd of 73,024 was in attendance.
• The kickoff conditions were picture perfect with a temperature of 77 degrees under sunny skies.
• The Browns wore their traditional brown tops and white pants, relegating the Ravens to all-white uniforms.
• Dawson’s wife, Shannon, sang the national anthem.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.