The day was Sept. 14, 2003 — exactly 11 years ago and one day from today. The Baltimore Ravens were at home and hosting the Cleveland Browns. Before the game, almost no one could have expected what would take place. The only one that thought history could be made was Jamal Lewis himself.
Lewis, Baltimore's star running back, wanted to prove a point, that he was among the NFL's best early in the season. That week leading up to the game, he'd received some bulletin board material from Browns safety Earl Little, who wasn't sold on Lewis' abilities as a runner.
"He's not as great as he thinks he is," Little said leading up to the game. "He's a good back, but he's no Edgerrin James. He's no Ricky Williams and he's definitely no Priest Holmes."
Lewis didn't hold back on the field. He went on to gash the Browns for 295 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, setting an NFL record at the time. That record would stand until 2007, when Adrian Peterson — in the news these days for all the wrong reasons — ran for 296 in a game against the Chargers.
Lewis actually spoke with Browns linebacker Andra Davis during the week, telling him that if he got 30 carries, he'd break Corey Dillon's then-record of 278 yards, He did, and then some. And he averaged 9.8 yards per carry in the process.
Lewis ran for touchdowns of 82 ad 63 yards out, scoring plays you just don't see often in the NFL from the running game. It makes you wonder if the Ravens will ever see this kind of performance again in the NFL, given the fact the game has trended toward passing attacks and two-back rotations.
It's very possible that no Ravens runner will come close to breaking Lewis' franchise record of 295 yards, let alone Peterson's 296 league record. Lewis finished that 2003 season with 2,066 yards, which is the third-best in the history of the NFL. Eric Dickerson's 2,105 with the Los Angeles Rams in 1984 is still the league's top mark, with Peterson's 2,097 in 2012 second-best.
As for Little, the Browns defender that brushed off Lewis' abilities, he learned a valuable lesson in trash talk going into a game week.
"This is the most disgusting feeling I ever had in my life. ... He said what he said, and then he did it," he told reporters after the game. "It's in the history books."