Pees attributed a lot of the problems in Kansas City to the defensive linemen not keeping blockers occupied and off of Lewis' pads.

"If you watch the film, I wouldn't put a lot of that on No. 52," Pees said. "We did a couple of other things with some fronts that did not help us, and they really hurt the linebackers. If the offensive line is coming off and getting to the second level on the linebackers, we are not in a good system here. We are not playing good technique upfront.

"A lot of times, you can say whatever you want about the linebackers, it isn't going to matter. If the guy is coming off and has him sealed, I don't care who it is. It could be Dick Butkus, it isn't going to make a difference. Watching that film, I didn't see anything with Ray. I know the comment has been made, something about losing weight. It has absolutely nothing to do with his weight. Nothing."

When Lewis was in his heyday, he had big veteran defensive linemen Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa and Kelly Gregg essentially operating as his bodyguards and clogging up the middle.

It allowed Lewis to flow freely to the football.

In Williams' view, hefty nose guards Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody aren't doing enough to help Lewis out.

"It's not all his fault," Williams said. "Ray has never really been one of those run-stuffing, brutal type linebackers. He's never been real physical at the point of attack, but he could always run and play in every situation. He's not getting any help from the guys up front, Kemoeatu or Cody. They are terrible up front.

"Even in Ray's highest moment when you had Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa and Kelly Gregg, those guys did a lot of the dirty work and kept Ray clean. If Ray doesn't stay clean and in position where he's unblocked, if he's not getting help, then the Ray Lewis we all know and love is not going to work in this system."

Cody acknowledged that from a gap integrity standpoint, it wasn't a strong game bythe interior defensive line against Kansas City.

"It's our responsibility to keep the center off Ray," Cody said. "We didn't do that good this past game."

At this time, the Ravens haven't started grooming a potential future replacement for Lewis. Inside linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe have had their moments, but neither is close to dominant.

Determining what's next for Lewis and the Ravens' defense is hard to say. Making $4.95 million this season, he's under contract through 2015 with nonguaranteed base salaries of $7.3 million, $5.4 million and $6.5 million over the next three years.

"Can the Ravens win without Ray Lewis right now?" Bowen said. "I don't think so. Until you can win without him, you have to live with the ups and the downs."

Through five games, the Ravens (4-1) are winning primarily because of an offense led by quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice and rank eighth in the NFL in total offense.

Where the defense has remained strong is allowing just 17.8 points per contest to rank seventh in the NFL in scoring defense and Baltimore ranks sixth in the NFL with a plus-six turnover margin with 12 takeaways on six fumble recoveries and six interceptions. However, they're allowing 379.8 yards of total offense per game.

Despite the changes, Lewis remains a vital part of what the Ravens are doing defensively. He never comes off the field.

The Ravens' win-loss record is Lewis' primary focus, not his personal accomplishments as he pursues another Super Bowl ring.

"I don't know the last time I've actually talked about me individually and how I play because I just go out there and do what I do," said Lewis, the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXV following the 2000 season. "I think for us to be where we are right now as a team, it's probably more important than anything individually. You look around the league and you always hear these personal stats by guys, and their teams are 1-4 or their teams are 1-3.

"So, I throw things out the window. The blessing is there is not an accolade or record I don't have. None of that impresses me. What impresses me is having my team ready to play every week to come out and get a 'W.'"