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Ray Lewis a show stopper for Ravens against Bengals

ESPN's dangerous, decade-long crush on Ray Lewis was in full swing Monday night.

This time around, we were on board. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker put on a show, recording 14 tackles, one sack and forcing a fumble in a resounding 44-13 blowup of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was a distant second for Baltimore with seven combined stops, and nobody in the NFL recorded more tackles than Lewis in Week 1. (A.J. Hawk tied him, but we digress ...)

The man is 37 years old and playing sensational football. Here's why: Lewis is one of the game's most physical players, but he's also one of its most adaptable. After spending parts of his career at close to 260 pounds, Lewis trimmed down to 235 this summer to reflect the NFL's evolution on offense.

Lewis told ESPN he used to play heavy because of the constant stream of monster fullbacks attacking his gap. With teams leaning full-tilt on the pass, Lewis is now being asked to cover men all over the field, a task he was ready for against a Bengals team openly asking where the time machine is stored.

It's depressing to see aging players hanging around past their prime, ignoring eroding skills and leaving their coaches in an awkward place. That sentence has nothing to do with Ray Lewis, who arguably remains one of the most productive at his position, not to mention the core force on a Ravens team that doesn't want to see him go.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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