In 2003, Baltimore Ravens’ running back Jamal Lewis became the fifth player in NFL history to crack the 2,000 yard club. The 5’11 245 lb. Lewis was built like a tank, but also possessed the breakaway speed to outrun defenders. It was an historic season for Lewis, who was in his fourth year in the NFL, and second after a major knee injury that kept him out for the entire 2001 season. It was, however, a nightmare for the opposing teams, especially the Cleveland Browns.
Jamal Lewis Ran Wild in 2003
Lewis had a modest game in the Ravens’ 2003 NFL season opener. In that game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he rushed for 69 yards on 15 carries. The next week against the Cleveland Browns, he ran into the history books (more on this historic game later). Against the San Diego Chargers in Week 3, Lewis gutted them for 132 yards on 23 rushing attempts. That was the second of 6 straight games of 100 yards or more for Lewis. He had twelve 100 yard games that year, tied for second most all-time in a season (Barry Sanders had 14 in 1997).
After another monster game against the Browns (see below) in week 16, Lewis had 1,952 yards with one game remaining. He would have a chance to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in the last game of the season. And to make it even sweeter if he did, the historic achievement would happen against the Ravens’ most hated rival: Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ravens were looking towards the playoffs coming into the game with a 9-6 record. Stamping their ticket to the playoffs by beating the Steelers and getting Lewis’ 2,000 yards means this can be a very good day for the franchise. And it turned out to be so.
Lewis gained 114 yards on 27 carries, giving him 2,066 yards rushing, the third highest single season total in NFL history at the time. He joined Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Terrell Davis and O.J. Simpson in the club (since then Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson and Derrick Henry have also rushed for more than 2,000 yards in a season). As equally important, he helped the Ravens get the season split with the Steelers with the 13-10 win.
Lewis Destroys Cleveland Browns
Its one thing to rush for 2,066 yards in one season. But to get almost a QUARTER of that yardage in two games against the same opponent? That’s what you call ‘owning a team’. That’s exactly what Lewis did against the Browns.
The AFC North rivals first met in Week 2 in Baltimore. From the start, the Browns knew it was going to be a long day. On the second play of the Ravens’ opening drive, Lewis broke a couple of tackles and sprinted up the left side for an 82-yard TD run. He was just getting started. Lewis gashed them for another long TD run, 63 yards, in the fourth quarter. This was in addition to the other runs that didn’t end in the end zone. When the final buzzer sounded, the Ravens won 33-13. The story was Lewis as he set a then NFL record 295 yards rushing on 30 carries.
In Week 11, Lewis and the Ravens traveled to Cleveland for the second meeting. After the record setting game the first time around, there was no way the Browns would let him run wild again. Well, yes and no. Lewis didn’t set a new NFL single game rushing record, but he did have another 200 yard rushing game. His 205 yard, 2 TD performance powered the Ravens to a 35-0 win and a sweep of the Browns. The combined total of 500 yards rushing in the two games did set a record for the most against an opponent in a single season. It was definitely a sensational season for Jamal Lewis!