And what a journey it was.
After defeating Indianapolis at home to open the playoffs, the Ravens beat top-seeded Denver on the road and knocked off second-seeded New England. Then, underdogs again in the Super Bowl, Baltimore blew most of a 22-point lead in the second half before mounting one final defensive stop.
“To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I’ve ever been a part of in my career,” Lewis said. “What better way to do it than on the Super Bowl stage?”
The Ravens didn’t necessarily win for Lewis, but they sure felt good about sending him into retirement with a world championship.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who threw for three touchdowns. “Ray’s a great person and everyone knows he’s an unbelievable player, but he’s the best teammate. It’s unbelievable to send him out like this.”
Lewis‘ old buddy, 34-year-old Ed Reed, contributed a first-half interception. Jacoby Jones scored two touchdowns, and after the second — a 108-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter — he saluted his retiring teammate with a rendition of the “squirrel” dance Lewis made famous.
Days earlier, Lewis was confronted about his use of deer antler spray in his effort to return from the triceps injury. He vehemently denied trying the banned substance, and that sideshow fizzled out quickly enough so that it was not a distraction on Sunday.
The Ravens will have another middle linebacker next season, but they will never have another Ray Lewis. Harbaugh was asked why the team responded so passionately to him and his effort to go out on top.
“If you’re going to talk about the Ray thing, you want to ask about it, then the answer’s got to be faith,” Harbaugh said. “I mean Ray is driven by spirituality and faith and that’s what he draws on and that’s where his strength comes from. So if you really want to know, I mean that’s what he’s tapping into and that’s what makes it so beautiful and so perfect.”
Lewis was the second draft pick in Ravens’ history, following Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Ogden, who was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame on Saturday, waved to his former teammate during the pregame coin flip Sunday.
Perhaps one day, Ogden will extend the same greeting to Lewis in Canton, Ohio.