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Lewis rushes into 2,000 club

Ravens move on, Bengals left out

Chad Johnson had nothing to celebrate. Jamal Lewis had something to crow about -- just not as much as he'd have liked.

 

Johnson and the Bengals missed out on a long-awaited winning record and a possible spot in the playoffs after getting beaten by the lowly Cleveland Browns, 22-14, yesterday in Cincinnati. The loss clinched the AFC North title for the Ravens, who would later edge the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-10, in overtime.

Baltimore's star running back Lewis bulled his way into the exclusive 2,000-yard club, then fell agonizingly short of rushing past Eric Dickerson into the NFL record book.

Earning the distinction of AFC North champions with Cincinnati's loss, the Ravens (10-6) won on a 47-yard field goal by Matt Stover with 11:32 left in the extra session.

Lewis ran for 114 yards on 27 carries to finish the season with 2,066 yards rushing -- 39 yards short of Dickerson's mark of 2,105 in a season, set in 1984. Lewis reached the 2,000-yard mark in the first quarter.

Lewis began the game needing 48 yards to add his name to the elite list. He reached exactly 2,000 on a 9-yard run in the first quarter, then followed with a 25-yard touchdown run, making it 2,025 -- third-best in NFL history. But he gained only 2 yards on six carries in the fourth quarter and got 3 yards in overtime to finish with the second-best rushing season in the history of the league.

The other members of the exclusive 2,000-yard club are Barry Sanders (2,053 in 1997); Terrell Davis (2,008 in 1998); and O.J. Simpson (2,003 in 1973).

Cincinnati's Cinderella season, meanwhile, was dashed by another running back, Cleveland rookie Lee Suggs, who ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the Browns' win.

For the Bengals (8-8), a renaissance season ended in a gut-wrenching disappointment in the franchise's biggest game in 13 years.

"That's the hardest part," Pro Bowl offensive tackle Willie Anderson said. "Knowing what's on the line, we've got to find a way to win these games and not come out and play scared and timid. We did it all year."

With a chance to stay in contention for at least a few more hours and post their first winning record since 1990, the Bengals felt the enormity of the moment and froze up. The crowd of 65,362 -- the largest ever for a Bengals game in Cincinnati -- filed out silently after Jon Kitna's final pass was intercepted by Robert Griffith with 41 seconds left.

The Bengals were in control of the division at 8-6 with two games left, but lost them both.

"We pressed," coach Marvin Lewis said. "That's a growth that we have to go through. Don't get frustrated about this and that, just keep playing. This was a good year. It wasn't a great year. We've got more to do."

Instead of taking advantage of the down-and-out Browns (5-11), the Bengals were uptight and out of sync. A rookie running back with a lot to prove became the undoing of a team with everything on the line.

Suggs, a fourth-round draft pick getting a chance during William Green's suspension, had a 78-yard touchdown run in the first half and a 25-yard run that put the Browns ahead to stay with 7:54 left.

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