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Lewis Runs Into Record Book

The Raven running back, who predicted he'd break the NFL's single-game mark if given 30 carries, gets 30 carries -- and a record 295 yards.

September 15, 2003|Jamison Hensley | Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — On the day he set the NFL single-game rushing record, Jamal Lewis' run for glory was matched only by his steely confidence.

The Baltimore Raven running back hammered his way to 295 yards rushing in his team's 33-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, shattering the 3-year-old mark of the Cincinnati Bengals' Corey Dillon by 17 yards.

Not only that, but Lewis called his shot.

Lewis predicted the feat three days earlier during a phone call with Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis, when Lewis said he would break the record if given 30 carries.

"It was like Babe Ruth pointing to the fence before the home run," Raven Coach Brian Billick said.

Lewis, who carried exactly 30 times and scored two touchdowns, was a picture of grace and power, bouncing off linebackers and sidestepping defensive backs. Two years removed from reconstructive knee surgery, he stiff-armed would-be tacklers one moment and out-sprinted them the next to pull the Ravens' record to 1-1 this season.

He delivered big plays by ripping through the middle of the defense. Five of Lewis' carries -- 82, 23, 48, 63 and 18 yards -- totaled 234 yards.

On his first attempt, he collected himself after nearly falling just past the line of scrimmage and bolted 82 yards for the touchdown. He had 105 yards by his second carry and 180 yards by halftime, when he first had a feeling that the record was within reach.

"I was going in at halftime when [Raven tackle] Jonathan Ogden said, 'Let's go get it. We can get 300 yards,' " Lewis said. "I knew then [my offensive line] was ready to go."

In marching to the record, the 240-pound running back carried the Ravens to victory in their home opener.

The Ravens looked in disarray when quarterback Kyle Boller went out of the game with a leg injury. Backup Chris Redman lost the ball when cocking his arm on his first pass attempt, and the Browns converted the fumble into a touchdown to close to 16-13 with 36 seconds left in third quarter.

On the second play after Cleveland kicked off, Lewis broke two tackles and outran the rest of the defense for a 63-yard touchdown. That run put the Ravens ahead 23-13, but Lewis' day was not over.

The Ravens closed the game by running the ball on 13 of their final 14 plays, with Lewis getting nine carries.

Giving the ball to Lewis was the battle cry all week after he was limited to 15 carries in the season-opening loss at Pittsburgh. Living up to their word, the Ravens executed the run-first philosophy to perfection.

Lewis was a one-man gang as the Ravens won despite completing just seven passes.

"We put it on his shoulders all week," Billick said. "For him to respond that way was very special to watch."

Not only does Lewis own the record, but he owns the Browns as well.

In his five career meetings against Cleveland, he has averaged 168 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry. His last four games against the Browns have resulted in at least 100 yards.

Although the Browns knew Lewis would be coming again, they were powerless to stop him.

"This is the most disgusting feeling I've had in my whole life," Brown safety Earl Little said. "He said what he said, he did it, and it's in the history books."

Lewis' place in history could have been more substantial if not for a penalty. He would have surpassed 300 yards, but a 60-yard touchdown run was cut by 12 yards because receiver Marcus Robinson was penalized for holding.

"On a day like today, I can't regret anything," said Lewis, who is in his fourth NFL season. "I'm going to remember it for a long time."

The record-breaking effort came with 6:52 left in the game and was an otherwise unremarkable run. On a third-and-15, he ran to the left and was mobbed three yards downfield.

Lewis' performance placed him ahead of such legendary runners as Walter Payton and O.J. Simpson. It also fulfilled a promise made to Davis, the Browns' middle linebacker, who was connected to Lewis on the phone by a mutual friend.

"Andra told me he wanted me to get the ball 30 times," Lewis said. "I told him if I get the ball 30 times, it's going to be a career day. It was lucky."


Top single-game NFL rushing games:

* 295 -- JAMAL LEWIS, Baltimore

vs. Cleveland, 2 TDs, Sept. 14, 2003

* 278 -- COREY DILLON, Cincinnati

vs. Denver, 2 TDs, Oct. 22, 2000

* 275 -- WALTER PAYTON, Chicago

vs. Minnesota, 1 TD, Nov. 20, 1977

* 273 -- O.J. SIMPSON, Buffalo

vs. Detroit, 2 TDs, Nov. 25, 1976

* 266 -- SHAUN ALEXANDER, Seattle

vs. Oakland, 3 TDs, Nov. 11, 2001

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