BALTIMORE -- Finishing second-best was fine with Jamal Lewis, who was delighted to at least get the chance to run his way into the NFL record book.
Lewis fell tantalizingly short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season record for yards rushing, in part because he was limited to five yards on eight carries after the third quarter.
|2,000 Yard Rushers|
|Eric Dickerson||L.A. Rams||1984||2,105|
|* - 14 game season|
Earning the distinction of AFC North champions earlier in the day, the Ravens won on a 47-yard field goal by Matt Stover with 11:32 left in the extra session.
Lewis ran for 114 yards on 27 carries to finish the season with 2,066 yards rushing -- 39 yards short of Dickerson's mark of 2,105, set in 1984.
"I'm not disappointed," Lewis said. "The opportunity was there, and we went at it. My line, they blocked well. It was in reach but we didn't get it. I think second is good."
The result became meaningless when the Cincinnati Bengals lost to Cleveland earlier Sunday, clinching the division for the Ravens (10-6). Division champs for the first time in franchise history, Baltimore will open the postseason Saturday at home against the Tennessee Titans (12-4).
Because the game meant little to the Ravens, no one would have blamed Ravens coach Brian Billick for saving Lewis for the playoffs. But the starters played to the end.
"I am surprised Coach left me in the game," Lewis said.
"This is the Pittsburgh Steelers," Billick said. "You can't cheat the game, you can't cheat the fans."
Lewis reached the 2,000-yard mark with seven minutes elapsed, had 73 yards after the first quarter and 109 yards after three periods.
But he gained only 2 yards on six carries in the fourth quarter and got 3 yards in overtime to finish with the second-best rushing season in the history of the league.
"I didn't even want him to get to 2,000," Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter said. "He got the big runs early, so he got the 2,000. But we wasn't going to let him get the overall record. He got some yards, but he didn't get the record."
The only other players to reach 2,000 yards in a season are: Barry Sanders (2,053 in 1997); Terrell Davis (2,008 in 1998); and O.J. Simpson (2,003 in 1973, a 14-game season).
Dickerson was shown on television after the game holding up a handmade sign that said: "19 years and counting."
The Steelers (6-10) are done for the year after losing in Baltimore for the first time in seven games since 1996. Had Pittsburgh stuffed Lewis early in the game, the result might have been different.
"The first couple of series, he was running very well," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "Once we made some adjustments in the second quarter, I felt like we pretty much had him in control."
Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis ran for 54 yards to move past Jim Brown into sixth on the career list with 12,353. Tony Dorsett ranks fifth with 12,739 yards.
"It seems like every week he's passing somebody," Cowher said. "He's a Hall of Fame running back, there's no question about it."
Lewis gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead with a 25-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. But Pittsburgh tied it in the third quarter when Chris Hope scored on an 81-yard pass play from Josh Miller on a fake punt.
With the score tied at 10, Stover missed a 52-yard field goal try with 46 seconds left in regulation and teammate Wade Richey was short on a 51-yarder as time expired.
Lewis, who had never run for 100 yards against the Steelers, had 4 more yards in the first quarter than he gained in the opener in Pittsburgh.
He started the night needing 48 yards to make it to 2,000. Lewis reached the number -- exactly -- with a 9-yard run midway through the first quarter. Then he rambled 25 yards for the touchdown on the next play to pass Simpson and Davis.
There was no fanfare after the 9-yard run; the only acknowledgment of the feat was that the ball was removed from the game. But Lewis received a lengthy standing ovation after the touchdown, when it was announced he surpassed 2,000 yards rushing.
Lewis finished the season leading the NFL in total yardage from scrimmage with 2,271 yards.
"I love the guy," said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who had one of three interceptions against Tommy Maddox. "We just try to get turnovers just to see Jamal run."
- Ray Lewis set a team single-season record with 219 tackles.
- Pittsburgh's six road losses were its most since 1998.
- Baltimore punter Dave Zastudil broke his nose and got a minor concussion in the first half.
The Associated Press News Service
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