BALTIMORE (AP) - After dancing before and after the game and making a team-high 13 tackles in between, Ray Lewis took a lap around the stadium to thank the fans of Baltimore for their support over the past 17 years.
It was an unforgettable afternoon for the 71,379 in attendance, players from both teams and most of all, the man in the middle.
“I knew how it started, but I never knew how it was going to end here in Baltimore,” Lewis said. “For it to go the way it went today, I wouldn’t change nothing. There were so many moments, so many fans, just the things that were said. The tears that I saw from people, and I was trying to hold it in myself trying to play a game.
“Just a very, very, very emotional day,” Lewis said.
Deftly battling his emotions and opposing linemen, Lewis helped the Ravens beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 in the opening round of the playoffs. Although the 37-year-old middle linebacker dropped a sure interception, his performance _ and the emotional lift it provided _ was a key component of the victory.
Lewis finished up by entering on offense, 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage as Baltimore ran a kneel-down to wrap up the game. As the clock ticked down to 0:00, he broke into his trademark dance.
“It was a neat moment, wasn’t it?” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Wearing a brace on his right arm, Lewis played for the first time since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14 against Dallas. He had seven tackles in the first half, including one in the Indianapolis backfield on running back Vick Ballard during a blitz.
Early in the second quarter, Lewis had a deflected pass in his grasp with designs of taking it into the end zone. But he dropped the ball, and many in the sellout crowd uttered a collective groan.
Upon being reminded of the drop, Lewis chuckled and said, “I’ll never live that one down. I’m going to put that one on the brace because I tried to put my arm up but the brace wouldn’t come up.”
He wanted to remove the brace during the game, but thought better of it.
“I didn’t feel pain,” Lewis said. “I didn’t hurt it one time.”
Baltimore will next travel to Denver to face the top-seeded Broncos on Saturday.