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Jamal Lewis, Sams lead Ravens over Falcons

Nov 20, 2006 - 1:52 AM BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- The power of Jamal Lewis and the speed of B.J. Sams was a winning combination for the Baltimore Ravens.

Lewis rushed for three second-half touchdowns and Sams totaled 212 yards on six kick returns to lead the Ravens to a 24-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in an interconference contest.

It was the fourth straight win for first-place Baltimore (8-2), which remained three games ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC North.

The loss was the third in a row for the Falcons (5-5), who trail co-leaders Carolina and New Orleans by one game in the NFC South.

The Ravens were shut out in the first half by a depleted Falcons defense missing four injured starters - ends Patrick Kerney and John Abraham, linebacker Ed Hartwell and cornerback Jason Webster - before Sams provided a spark with two long returns.

A 59-yard punt return by Sams to the Atlanta 17 set up Lewis' first touchdown - a two-yard run with 4:32 left in the third quarter, giving Baltimore a 10-7 lead.

"Field position is a huge part of the game and I was able to break some runs today," Sams said. "Every time I go on the field my teammates tell me we need good field position. And that's what I try to do every time. A good return always seems to energize the crowd."

After Morten Andersen kicked a 21-yard field goal to tie the game with 1:58 remaining in the third quarter, Sams returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards to the Atlanta 37. Steve McNair then hit tight end Todd Heap with a nine-yard pass and Lewis ran up the middle for 12 yards before scoring on a 16-yard run with 20 seconds left in the quarter.

Lewis scored again on a five-yard run with 3:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, capping a 15-play, 87-yard drive that lasted more than eight minutes.

"The coaches told us to be physical, execute and run the football," Lewis said. "I think the offensive line took that to heart. It was the offensive line just pushing guys down the field."

Lewis finished with 91 yards on 22 carries and matched a career high with his three touchdowns.

"Give a back enough of a chance to get going, and particularly Jamal, he's a punishing style of runner that you wear them down with," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I think that's what we saw in the fourth quarter."

Despite missing perennial Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis (back), the Ravens were able to contain Michael Vick, the NFL's fastest quarterback, and neutralize Atlanta's No. 1 ranked rushing attack.

Vick completed just 11-of-21 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and ran for 54 yards on six carries, but was sacked five times for 45 yards in losses. Left end Trevor Pryce had two of the sacks.

"We knew what we were up against," Vick said. "They have a great defense. We knew we were going to have to come out and execute. But they bring a lot of pressure. They tried to put pressure on me and put us in third-and-long situations."

The Falcons rushed for 104 yards, 95 below their season average.

Vick hit Michael Jenkins with a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:45 left in the first quarter to give Atlanta a 7-0 lead.

Baltimore's Matt Stover missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide left, ending his streak of 36 in a row, with 10:20 remaining in the second quarter.

After a 65-yard punt return by Sams, the Ravens squandered another scoring opportunity when Steve McNair fumbled a snap and linebacker Michael Boley recovered at the Atlanta 16 with 23 seconds left in the second quarter.

A 42-yard pass from McNair to Mark Clayton set up a 29-yard field goal by Stover with 9:18 left in the third quarter.

After Atlanta went three-and-out, Sams juked his way to a 59-yard return. Jamal Lewis caught a five-yard swing pass on a fourth-down play before scoring on a two-yard run.

"B.J. was huge today," Jamal Lewis said. "Field position is the name of the game and he did a great job for us with those returns."

Andersen's field goal capped an eight-play, 62-yard drive which featured two runs by Vick for 35 yards.

McNair was 5-for-6 for 49 yards on the drive that led to Lewis' third touchdown.

"We managed to execute in the second half," said McNair, who finished 24-of-34 for 236 yards. "The defense held in the first half for us when the offense struggled. And B.J. did a great job. We finally took advantage in the second half and then had that long ball-control drive which is what we want to do on a consistent basis."

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