Lewis rushed for a game-high 167 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries to surpass
the 1,000-yard mark one season removed from a 2,066-yard campaign where he was
named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. The running back busted through
gaping holes and timid arm tackles to take full advantage of the Dolphins'
30th-ranked rushing defense and finish the season with 1,006 yards.
Lewis missed two games with a sprained ankle that continued to bother him against Miami, and another two for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy as a result of his plea bargain in a federal drug conspiracy case in Atlanta. Lewis was indicted last winter and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of using a cellular phone to facilitate a drug transaction in October.
"Everything went down for a reason," said Lewis, who missed the majority of a game against the Dallas Cowboys when he sprained his right ankle. "I kind of set my goals to get at least 1,000 yards. The way the season was going, I had to prove what kind of back I was in overcoming adversity, getting a lot of yards. So, it was a great accomplishment."
It was Lewis' fourth 100-yard game of the season, the 26th of his career.
The plays the 5-foot-11, 240-pound back ran weren't complicated. They were the straightforward dives and off-tackle calls that he prefers behind the Ravens' burly offensive line.
One week after complaining about the direction of the runs following a 20-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lewis was content again while noting that this season obviously went awry for him and the team in a major way.
"It was different, because I missed five games this season," Lewis said. "It was hard-fought. The line, we got it done, with all the injuries and everything. We kind of just fought hard and overcame."
The Ravens demonstrated resolve in playing without both of their starting guards: Edwin Mulitalo and Bennie Anderson.
Mulitalo tore his triceps muscle and underwent surgery days before kickoff. Anderson suffered a right shoulder contusion Sunday, and didn't return.
That forced rookie Brian Rimpf to play right guard, with Mike Flynn playing center and Casey Rabach operating at left guard after starting at center all season long.
Lewis limped noticeably after plays and afterward, but withstood the pain, figuring this was probably the Ravens' final football game.
"It was going to bother me anyway," Lewis said. "It was just a matter of how I was going to go down, how someone was going to tackle me, or if someone was going to roll into me and make it worse.
"It hurt pretty much, as much as it did the last couple of games. You just pull through. I certainly had the help of my line."
Lewis fumbled in the fourth quarter on an inside run at the Ravens' 7 as defensive end David Bowens ripped the football out of his arms. Quarterback Kyle Boller recovered as Miami registered a safety.
"We put ourselves in a bad position with the fumble that I had," Lewis said. "It kind of made us have to fight harder, so we fought hard and showed what kind of team we are."
Ravens coach Brian Billick acknowledged Lewis' gutty effort, considering other starters like linebacker Ray Lewis (broken wrist) and tight end Todd Heap (sprained ankle) were too hurt to play.
"Jamal's playing hurt," Billick said. "You've got to appreciate the effort he gave, very uncomfortable injury for him."
For Lewis, this frustrating period of his life isn't entirely resolved.
He still has legal obligations as a result of his plea bargain. Lewis will have to serve four months in a minimum-security prison and two months in a halfway house this off-season as well as perform 500 hours of community service.
"That's rough," fullback Alan Ricard said. "It's unfortunate that he has to face that, but Jamal is a man and he'll do what he has to do as a man."
As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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