There are some moments that you’ll never forget as a sports fan. Today was one that I’ll be able to tell the grandkids about.
I was there live the last game Ray Lewis played in Baltimore.
There will be time later for me to write about his legacy. What he meant to the NFL, the franchise, the city, and to opposing fans.
But that’s for another day.
Today is about celebrating another playoff victory as the Ravens hope to send off their iconic linebacker off to retirement in style with another ring.
So let’s get to it:
- Ray Lewis. You could not have written a better return for Lewis who appeared energized and determined in a 13 Total tackle effort today. He did show his age a few times in pass coverage and I’m sure he’s upset at himself for dropping a sure interception but it’s hard not to gush over his leadership and effort in today’s victory. The farewell tour has a stop in Denver planned next week. I should also mention how incredibly cool it was to watch Ed Reed pause during his intro and then point back at Lewis before he emerged through the smoke. Reed may also retire next year or he may not but he most likely won’t be in a Ravens uniform. Either way it was a pretty classy move.
- Joe Flacco kicked it into high gear in the second half as he stepped up into the pocket and stretched the field on several long throws. He struggled a bit in the First Half as his receivers dropped a few passes and the Indy pressure got to him. Credit both he and Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell for working together to make adjustments, such as adding more play-action to move the pocket and getting Flacco to move around more. He connected on some solid throws for two touchdowns for 282 yards and more importantly no turnovers.
- Ray Rice ran well today (15 carries – 70 yards) and his screen pass (47 yds.) and run set up a touchdown. His two fumbles were uncharacteristic for a player who usually has excellent ball security. Both were as the Ravens were driving and could have been costly. Luckily he was bailed out by a solid defensive effort and his understudy rookie Bernard Pierce.
- Pierce had another fantastic game today (13 carries for 103 -7.9 per) and has that extra burst that is yet another weapon the team can employ. Rice is still the man but Baltimore must continue to keep Pierce involved in the offense.
- Anquan Boldin. A huge game for him today (5 catches – 145 yds. 1 TD) as he set a franchise record for receiver production in a game. All of this was done in only one half too.
- The O-line played one of its’ better games with a reshuffled deck. Jah Reid was a scratch with a toe injury so Bryant McKinnie finally was inserted at Left Tackle. Micheal Oher went back to the right side while Kelechi Osemele stepped in at Left Guard. I now that McKinnie didn’t start the year off right by not reporting to Camp on time and that he doesn’t practice well but he’s been the Ravens best option at Left Tackle all along. Oher struggled with Robert Mathis on the right side most of the day while McKinnie kept Dwight Freeney totally off the stat sheet.
- Paul Kruger. He continues his improvement week by week and may well be the Ravens top pass rusher at the moment. He finished the afternoon with 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. My only concern is that he soon be pricing himself out of the Ravens market for next season since his contract is up.
- The Ravens defense continues to improve and even though they gave up too many yards on the ground and in the air they tightened up when they needed to and only gave up three Field goals. They also helped balanced the turnover battle with a fumble and a tipped interception. Let’s not forget that they were on the field for almost 38 minutes and were no doubt gassed towards the end.
- Jacoby Jones continues to exhibit versatility being used in the offense and as a dangerous return man. He had 60 return yards and helped set up decent field position for the offense.
- Andrew Luck will have a very good pro career but the Ravens did a nice job keeping him in check. He turned the ball over twice and kept pressure in him for most of the day. In order for Baltimore to get past Denver they will need to control time of possession much better than today (INDY 37:32 – BAL 22:28) too.
- (EXTRA POINT) Congratulations to both John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco. In both men’s five years in Baltimore, the Ravens have been to the playoffs every season, the only NFL team to do so. They have also now one at least one game in those appearances, another rare feat.