With left tackle Jared Gaither among the three Ravens starters out (safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Mark Clayton were the others), the team had to flip Michael Oher from right tackle to left and insert little-used Oniel Cousins into the starting lineup. Cousins, a third-round pick in 2008, hadn't suited up for a game this season.

"The offensive line was probably the key on offense today," Harbaugh said. "No doubt."

The blocking allowed Rice to produce two 50-plus-yard runs, a 30-yard catch and images of a Hall of Fame running back.

"He reminds me of a lot of guys, but the way he spins out of tackles, the one guy we saw come through here years ago was Barry Sanders," Lewis said. "He springs like a cat, and he has a heart like a lion."

As the offense piled up the yards and the accolades, the defense quietly finished off its third game without allowing a touchdown this season.

Its dominance began in the first quarter, when the Ravens stopped the Lions on three third-and-short situations to open the game. The Ravens cracked down on Detroit's top offensive weapon, wide receiver Calvin Johnson (four catches for 37 yards), and frustrated backup quarterback Daunte Culpepper (135 passing yards and two interceptions).

"From the beginning of the game, I think we dictated what we wanted to give them," Lewis said.

The Ravens' combination of a pounding attack and suffocating defensive performance made it a rude homecoming for Lions coach Jim Schwartz, a Mount St. Joseph graduate who returned to Baltimore for the first time as an NFL head coach.

"I thought that in preparation everyone was ready to play," he said. "I was way off the mark there."

Up 41-3 to start the fourth quarter, Ravens players had time to celebrate but they said they resisted other temptations. Only linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs acknowledged looking at the scoreboard to see whether Denver and Jacksonville had lost.

"If we don't win the next three games, we're still going to be scoreboard-watching," Lewis said. "Bottom line, we just have to take care of our business."