Check out the No. 9 regular-season moment in Ravens history HERE.
Coming off a disappointing Week 1 loss at Pittsburgh, the 2003 Ravens were preparing for their home opener when Jamal Lewis chatted with Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis on the phone.
The Browns were coming off their first playoff appearance since rejoining the NFL in 1999 and looking for a mental edge as Davis told the Ravens running back he’d have a difficult time that Sunday. Having already rushed for more than 1,300 yards in each of his two healthy professional seasons — he missed all of 2001 due to a torn ACL — Lewis predicted he would set a new NFL record if he received 30 carries against Cleveland.
Cincinnati’s Corey Dillon had set the leading mark of 278 rushing yards in a game just three years earlier, but Lewis wasted no time signaling his intentions on his first rush of the day.
After losing his balance and nearly falling, Lewis exploded to the second level, stiff-armed Browns linebacker Kevin Bentley, and raced 82 yards for a touchdown, the longest run in franchise history. The physicality was nothing new, but watching the 240-pound back pull away from members of the Browns secondary was a sight to behold.
His next run went for 23 yards, giving the 2000 first-round pick from Tennessee an incredible 105 yards on two carries. With rookie quarterback Kyle Boller making only his second NFL start that day, the Ravens made clear their decision to ride Lewis against a seemingly helpless Browns defense.
A 48-yard run in the second quarter — that would have been a 60-yard touchdown if not for a holding penalty — set up a Matt Stover fielder goal to give the Ravens a 13-3 lead. Before a jubilant sellout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium, Lewis went into the halftime locker room having rushed 16 times for 180 yards, already the third-highest single-game total to that point in his career.
To their credit, the Browns appeared to find some answers in the third quarter as Lewis was held to only 15 yards on six carries and the Ravens led 16-13 going into the final period.
But Lewis began the fourth quarter just like he started the game.
The 63-yard touchdown pushed Lewis over the 250-yard rushing mark and within striking distance of Dillon’s record with nearly a full quarter to play. On the next drive, his fifth carry of 18 or more yards left him one yard shy of history.
The record-breaking run was an ordinary 3-yard gain — with Davis making the tackle — midway through the fourth quarter. The Ravens were forced to punt after failing to convert that third-and-long situation, but the home crowd erupted as the announcement came that Lewis had just set the new league record.
Carrying the ball four more times on Baltimore’s last drive, Lewis fell five yards short of 300. Still, a 295-yard rushing day on 30 attempts had more than supported his bold claim from earlier in the week.
After the Ravens’ 33-13 victory, Browns safety Earl Little lamented, “I guess the dude is Nostradamus.”
In his post-game press conference, Lewis denied that he had predicted a new NFL record, claiming he only said he’d have “a career day” if the Ravens gave him 30 carries and that the feat was “lucky.” But the 24-year-old would embarrass the Browns again in Week 16 with a 205-yard rushing performance and finished 2003 by becoming the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
“Andra said he wanted to bet that I wouldn’t get 100 yards,” said Lewis about the beginning of that record-setting game. “I don’t bet because that’s a jinx, but after I got that 80-yarder, I went up to him and asked if the bet [for] 100 was still on.
“I don’t know if he heard me.”