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Ravens wear down Falcons for fourth straight victory

BALTIMORE (AP) -- For 30 minutes, the Baltimore Ravens'
rejuvenated offense was rendered powerless by the depleted Atlanta Falcons.

Then B.J. Sams kick-started the Baltimore attack with two long
returns, and the Ravens pulled away to a 24-10 victory Sunday.

Sams returned six kicks for 212 yards and Jamal Lewis tied a
career high with three touchdowns to lead the Ravens (8-2) to their
fourth straight win.

"Huge," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said of Sams' returns.
"B.J. Sams put us in position time and time again."

After being held scoreless in the first half, the Ravens trailed
7-3 early in the third quarter before forcing an Atlanta punt. Sams
juked, stutter-stepped and spun his way 59 yards to the Atlanta 17.

"I started to my left and hit the seam up the middle and my
blockers were there," Sams said. "It came out perfect."

Lewis caught a swing pass for 5 yards on a fourth-and-1, then
scored from the 2 on third down to give Baltimore its first lead.

Morten Andersen answered with a 21-yard field goal to tie it at
10, but Sams took the ensuing kickoff 59 yards to the Atlanta 37.
Three plays later, Lewis backed into the end zone to end a 16-yard
run that put Baltimore ahead for good.

"You get that kind of field position, you win," Ravens center
Mike Flynn said. "We didn't have to drive the length of the field
the way they did."

The Ravens clinched it with an 87-yard drive that lasted more
than eight minutes. Lewis finished the 15-play march with a 5-yard
touchdown run with 3:02 left.

Lewis ran for 91 yards on 22 carries.

"A couple of times out there, it kind of felt like old times,"
said Lewis, who amassed 2,066 yards rushing in 2003. "It's really
not me, just the offensive line pushing guys down the field. Their
defense was tired and we kind of took advantage of that in the
fourth quarter."

Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick ran for 54 yards on six
carries, but was sacked five times for 45 yards in losses and
completed only 11 of 27 passes for 127 yards. The performance came
against a Baltimore defense that played a second straight game
without injured middle linebacker Ray Lewis (back).

"They give pressure to the quarterback and I think that's the
thing they take pride in, especially without their leader out there
on the field," Vick said. "I think that was their main goal, to
put pressure on me, make us try to beat them through the air and
put us in third-and-long situations -- which they did."

The Falcons (5-5) have lost three in a row. Atlanta's defense
was without injured ends John Abraham and Patrick Kerney,
linebacker Edgerton Hartwell, and cornerbacks Jimmy Williams and
Jason Webster.

"We played great first-half defense. We shut down their running
game and forced them to throw the ball. We were getting to the
quarterback a couple of times," Falcons defensive end Paul
Carrington said. "But basically, in the fourth quarter, they kind
of started pounding it, pounding it. The defense kind of wore
down."

Down 7-0 at halftime, the Ravens' slumbering offense finally
stirred during the opening series of the third quarter. A 42-yard
pass from Steve McNair to Mark Clayton set up a 29-yard field goal
by Matt Stover, who earlier had his run of 36 straight field goals
end with a misfire from 42 yards out.

McNair went 24-for-34 for 236 yards.

Falcons coach Jim Mora gambled on the game's first series,
keeping his offense on the field on a fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta
39. Warrick Dunn was stuffed for a loss, but it didn't cost the
Falcons because Stover followed with his first miss since Oct. 31,
2005.

It foreshadowed a miserable half for the Ravens, who left the
field to a chorus of jeers. Baltimore received four false-start
penalties, gained 7 yards on nine rushing attempts and blew another
chance to score when McNair followed a 65-yard punt return by Sams
with a fumble at the Atlanta 14.

"Special teams were huge," Billick said. "We didn't take as
much advantage as we should have, but it kept us in position where
we could just keep chipping away."

The only first-half score came late in the first quarter, when a
36-yard punt return by Allen Rossum set up a 13-yard touchdown pass
from Vick to Michael Jenkins.

Rossum, however, was outdone by Sams.

"He's a great returner," Rossum said. "He definitely came out
and showed us what we've seen on the films."

Game notes
Ravens TE Daniel Wilcox left with a hamstring injury and
did not return. ... Andersen played in his NFL-record 362nd game.
He needs eight more PATs to pass Gary Anderson for second-most in
league history ... Jenkins has scored four TDs in a five-game
stretch.

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