Success of running game gives team grounds for pride

The Baltimore Sun

Lost in the heartache of the Ravens' depressing 27-24 loss to the New England Patriots at M&T; Bank Stadium on Monday night was the rediscovery of a familiar friend: a ground game.

Long built on the power running of Jamal Lewis, now with the Cleveland Browns, the offense crowned a capable successor in Willis McGahee, who gashed New England for 138 yards on 30 carries, including a 17-yard touchdown run during which he bowled over two Patriots defenders.

"We moved the ball running and passing," McGahee said after the game. "Sorry it took so long, but that was just a glimpse of what this offense can do."

McGahee, who has scored a rushing touchdown in seven consecutive games, posted season highs in attempts and yards, and the 138 yards were the most surrendered by the New England defense this season.

That McGahee was the focal point of the offense was part of a scheme to win the time-of-possession battle and keep the Patriots' high-octane offense on the sideline.

"That was the plan of attack [Monday night]," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "They're a solid team, but we knew that the more we kept [quarterback] Tom [Brady] off the field, the better. And it almost worked."

The offense's success at opening holes for McGahee paid dividends in the passing attack, too, as quarterback Kyle Boller connected on 15 of 23 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and a 105.3 passer rating.

Barnes gets first career sack

Rookie linebacker Antwan Barnes, who had been deactivated for the team's first two prime-time contests, against the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, made his Monday night debut a special one.

Barnes recorded his first career sack when he faked an inside move before turning outside and beating Patriots left tackle Matt Light to take down Brady for a 12-yard loss early in the fourth quarter.

"It was a good feeling," said Barnes, who also recorded two quarterback hurries. "I was kind of excited about it and had to get back on the field and do it again."

Wilcox has big return

Tight end Daniel Wilcox punctuated his return from a toe injury that had sidelined him for more than two months by catching a 1-yard touchdown pass from Boller in the fourth quarter.

For Wilcox, the touchdown was sweet redemption for nine weeks of treatment and rehabilitation for the left big toe that he sprained Sept. 30 against the Cleveland Browns.

"My teammates kept me motivated the whole time," Wilcox said. "To come back and perform like I did, it's a blessing."

End zone

Bart Scott broke a bone in his left hand on the Ravens' first defensive series Monday night, but the Pro Bowl linebacker vowed to be ready to play against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. "Just give me some duct tape," Scott said after his radio show last night. ... Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss said the Ravens engaged in a lot of verbal exchanges. "There was just so much trash-talking, man, from guys who really hadn't done anything in the league," Moss said. "So it was a good thing for the offense that Jabar Gaffney came up with a key catch, luckily, for six [points], and we shut them up."

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