CLEVELAND — It was a bittersweet Sunday for Browns running back Jamal Lewis — heavy on the sweet.
Yes, Lewis’ single-game rushing record was broken by Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson, who ran for 296 yards in a victory over the Chargers, eclipsing the 295 yards that Lewis amassed against the Browns as a member of the Baltimore Ravens in 2003.
But, no, he wasn’t lamenting the loss of an individual record that he held for three-plus seasons — not after the eight-year veteran played a major part in his team improving to 5-3 with a thrilling 33-30 overtime win over Seattle.
Though Lewis’ rushing total (37 yards) was far from gaudy, his scoring output — a career-high four touchdowns — fit that description to perfection. Of the six times they reached the red zone on the day, the Browns cashed in with four TDs, Lewis carrying the luggage on each occasion from 2, 1, 2 and 1 yard out.
“It feels great, knowing the offensive coordinator calls your number when you’re down there,” said Lewis of Cleveland’s Rob Chudzinski.
It was something that didn’t happen often enough for Lewis’ liking in Baltimore.
Though he was the Ravens’ featured back for the better part of six seasons and rushed for over 1,000 yards five times, Lewis reached the double-digit TD count just once.
The knock on Lewis in Baltimore — right or wrong — was that he didn’t have a nose for the end zone, a perception that hastened his departure to Cleveland this offseason.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I can’t really speak on (what happened in Baltimore).”
Of Lewis’ 20 carries, just three went for over 3 yards, but he had no trouble locating the goal line, scoring the Browns’ first touchdown in the second quarter, then adding three more in the second half. His third TD of the game gave him 50 for his career.
“One, the guys blocked for him,” said Browns coach Romeo Crennel. “And he was able to find the seams and bull his way in. He’s a big, strong back. Arm tackles usually don’t get him down, sometimes one guy doesn’t, either. You get him in there with some momentum, it’s tough to stop him, and I think that was the case today.”
Lewis, never considered much of a receiving threat, also mixed in four catches for 67 yards — the biggest was a 34-yard screen pass that set up Phil Dawson’s game-winning field goal in overtime.
With the Browns on their own 45-yard line facing a second-and-9 situation, Seattle blitzed and Lewis made them pay, hauling in the short pass and sprinting down the sideline to Seattle’s 21. Cleveland ran three more plays before kicking the field goal.
“It was a great call,” said Browns quarterback Derek Anderson of the screen pass. “They brought pressure. We caught them in a blitz and it finished the game off for us.”
“I saw the blitz coming, so I just snuck through there,” Lewis said.
Lewis made his mark on the ground though, with his four TDs accounting for the eighth time in franchise history that a Cleveland running back scored four or more times in a game. The record of five still belongs to Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who accomplished the feat in 1959 against the Baltimore Colts.
As far as Peterson breaking his mark, Lewis saw it coming, feeling that someone would surpass his single-game total under the right circumstance — like the one he found himself in against a depleted Cleveland defense in Baltimore on the memorable September day.
“A record like that can be broken on a good day,” Lewis said. “There wasn’t too much that I did special. The holes were there. Thanks to the defense I was playing against, it was a great day.
“(Peterson is) a phenomenal back. He’ll do great things and will be very special in this league.”
Like the guy whose record he broke.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.