First it was Ravens coach Brian Billick's declaration early last week that the Ravens needed to get the ball into running back Jamal Lewis' hands 25 or 30 times to be successful.
Then, word trickled out around the Ravens' locker room before their 33-13 victory yesterday over the Cleveland Browns at M&T; Bank Stadium that Lewis had warned the opposition that he would break the single-game yardage record if given 30 carries.
If the Ravens' offensive line didn't already feel like it had been called out by Billick after a disappointing showing in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lewis' playful prediction reaffirmed the message.
"It's funny because somebody had said before that game that Jamal had said he would break the record today," said Ravens right guard Bennie Anderson. "So we were like, 'Let's just go out and get it done.' I don't know if Jamal pulled a Babe Ruth [calling his shot] or what. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
That was the consensus among the Ravens' linemen, who paved the way for Lewis' 295 yards rushing, which comfortably eclipsed Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon's 3-year old single-game rushing record of 278 yards.
Lewis paid immediate homage to his protectors in his post-game news conference, saying: 'The line was called out and they did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. They took control from the start."
Said center Mike Flynn: "Hopefully, nobody will break that for a while. That's a Hall of Fame thing. As a lineman, the individual recognition is not really ever there, but today, we had a chance to do something as a unit and it was really exciting."
The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage - the Ravens' 343 rushing yards set a franchise record - though not always at full strength.
Jonathan Ogden was his dominant self at left tackle and Ethan Brooks and Orlando Brown continued to rotate at right tackle, but Anderson missed some time in the first half because of a thigh bruise and was replaced by Casey Rabach.
Anderson returned in the third quarter, and that was fortunate for the Ravens because they needed Rabach, the primary backup at center and guard, to replace left guard Edwin Mulitalo, who left in the fourth quarter with knee and ankle injuries.
Despite the change in personnel, Lewis didn't miss a beat.
The Ravens' 5-foot-11, 240-pound back got started early. Sprung by Ogden and Mulitalo, Lewis dashed 82 yards for a touchdown on the Ravens' second play from scrimmage.
Mixing it up the middle and to both sides, Lewis had 129 yards rushing before the Browns even had a first down.
After a first half, in which he gained 180 yards on 16 carries, Lewis said he was reminded by Ogden to "go for the record."
Said Lewis: "And I knew then, I got the confidence out of him and they [offensive linemen] were ready to go."
On the record-breaking carry, Lewis ran off left guard for a 3-yard gain before coming out to a standing ovation.
"It's every lineman's dream," Rabach said. "I blocked for Ron Dayne [at Wisconsin] and he won a Heisman Trophy. I thought that was something, but now I am blocking for a guy who has more yards in a game than any other back in the NFL. It's really unbelievable."
Added Brown: "It feels good to go down in history, but believe me, we ain't finished yet. He [Lewis] might get another [record] and another."