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Lewis' INT return TD capped effort

12/1/2003

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The defense returned to form, the offense
matched the standard it set one week earlier, and the special teams
were spectacular.

It added up to the most lopsided victory in the history of the
Baltimore Ravens, a 44-6 rout of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday
that served as a perfect tuneup for next week's clash for first
place in the AFC North.

Question on the 49ers: Do the Niners stick with Garcia or do they go back to Rattay?
If I'm the 49ers, I place the ball back in the hands of Tim Rattay. He looks better at his worst than Garcia does at his worst and that's a telling sign. Anybody can look great at any particular time, but a team can tell more about a player by how he plays when he doesn't have his best stuff. With Rattay at QB, the 49ers don't have to worry about reckless play or injuries. It's time for them to start evaluating Rattay as their QB for next season.

Question on the Ravens: Is Lewis the best defensive player in the game?
There's no doubt Ray Lewis is the most dominant defensive player in the NFL. Last season, Bucs' LB Derrick Brooks may have briefly surpassed him, but this season Lewis has taken back his crown. There's no other defensive player out there who can disrupt an offense as effectively and consistently. He's single-handedly leading this team to the playoffs and, if he's triumphant, he deserves MVP consideration.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Ray Lewis returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown to
cap a 17-point flurry in the second quarter, and the rejuvenated
Ravens cruised past the road-weary 49ers.

"This is a complete game for us, the kind of game we're capable
of having," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's what we're
going to need the rest of the way to get done what we want to get
done."

That would be a return to the playoffs following a one-year
absence. Baltimore can take a huge step in that direction next week
against Cincinnati, which beat Pittsburgh to remain tied with the
Ravens atop the division.

The Bengals beat Baltimore in Cincinnati earlier this season,
and the Ravens have been itching for the rematch.

"Now we can focus on Cincinnati. Everybody else is out of the
way," Lewis said.

One week earlier, the Ravens trailed Seattle by 14 points at
halftime and by 17 in the fourth quarter before rallying to win.
Baltimore (7-5) took a far easier path against the 49ers, building
a 24-6 halftime lead before coasting.

"Our offense is definitely setting a trend," said Gary Baxter,
who had a key interception. "They're setting a standard to do that
every week. And that's what we want them to do."

It's the first time in team history Baltimore reached 40 points
in consecutive games. The four interceptions helped, as did a
kickoff return by Lamont Brightful and three field goals by Matt
Stover.

But also give credit to the offense, which has been on a roll
since breaking a drought of eight quarters without a touchdown
against Seattle.

"Our mentality was to come out and prove that last week wasn't
a fluke," said Anthony Wright, who threw two touchdown passes.

The return of quarterback Jeff Garcia did nothing to change the
fortune of the 49ers (5-7), who fell to 0-6 on the road. Back from
a three-game absence with a sprained ankle, Garcia went 14-for-29
for 112 yards with a career-high four interceptions before being
pulled early in the fourth quarter.

"It's like a bad nightmare. All four interceptions, one way or
another, were deflected," Garcia said. "When it started to go
downhill, it went downhill fast. We couldn't find a way to stop the
steam."

It was San Francisco's worst loss since a 41-3 defeat against
Jacksonville in September 1999.

"It was an embarrassing game," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson
said. "We didn't play well in all aspects, starting with me."

The game turned in the second period, when Baltimore converted a
precarious 7-6 lead into an 18-point cushion in the span of 1
minute, 25 seconds.

First, Stover kicked a 28-yard field goal following a 75-yard
kickoff return by Brightful. After a San Francisco punt, Wright
threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Robinson -- the fifth time
in two weeks the duo hooked up for a score.

It took only 14 seconds for Baltimore to add another touchdown.
On second down from the San Francisco 20, Garcia threw a pass that
deflected off receiver Cedrick Wilson to Lewis. He high-stepped
down the right sideline for a score with 32 seconds left in the
half.

"The turnover and the touchdown, that's 14 quick points,"
Garcia said. "That just created a deeper hole for us to come out
of."

Lewis' first regular-season interception return for a touchdown
was merely one facet of a redemptive performance by the Baltimore
defense, which was burned for five touchdown passes and 41 points
by Seattle.

The Ravens limited the 49ers to 10 first downs and held star
receiver Terrell Owens to three catches for 23 yards.

The first time Owens touched the ball, it proved beneficial for
the Ravens. A high pass from Garcia deflected off Owens'
outstretched hand to Baltimore's Ed Hartwell, whose first career
interception led to a 6-yard touchdown run by Jamal Lewis.

The 49ers countered with two field goals by Todd Peterson, but
that's all they would get.

Game notes
Line Judge Carl Johnson received a concussion near the end
of the second quarter during the Ravens' celebration of Ray Lewis'
TD. ... The 49ers have an interception in eight successive games.
... 49ers RB Garrison Hearst sprained his right knee in the third
quarter and did not return.