Tag: Ravens

Welcoming The Newest Ravens

Ravens-4.27Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

This quote has pretty much summed up the week of Ravens news. After losing nine starters (six of which were on the defensive side of the ball), they make a huge play in free agency. After being cut by the Broncos after a contract faxing went awry, the Ravens swooped in and signed Elvis Dumervil to a five-year contract for $35 million.

The veteran pass rusher has been brought in to replace Paul Kruger, and he will do a bang up job of it too. Dumervil has 65.5 sacks in his nine seasons, while Kruger has 15.5 in four years.

Dumervil will be added to a pass rushing corps featuring the likes of Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, along with the new additions of Chris Canty and Marcus Spears who were picked up earlier in the free agency blitz.

While the front seven is getting major upgrades, the Ravens still have a few needs in other places. For starters, the need major depth at linebacker with Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe departing, and they will need replacements at safety with Ed Reed’s signing in Houston. And with 12 draft picks, the Ravens can easily fill the holes they have.

To say that they will not make the playoffs while it is still MARCH is a little bit brash. Expect the Ravens to be competitive.

In other news: The Ravens will NOT be opening the NFL season at home (unlike the last ten Super Bowl victors). The NFL, MLB, Ravens, White Sox, and Orioles where unable to come to an agreement on how to fit both Birds in Baltimore on September 5th. So instead, the Ravens will make their opener on the road, which will most likely be in Denver.

And just as a “for the record” type thing, this situation is NOT the Orioles fault. They had the parking lot first, and I am really glad they did not let themselves get bullied by the NFL.

Ed Reed Becomes A Texan

Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

We, as fans, get so emotionally attached to our teams and its members that we forget that football is, at its core, a business. And I am extremely guilty of this. Last night I got on Twitter to be greeted by multiple tweets from multiple sources saying that Ed Reed was no longer a member of the Baltimore Ravens. I could not believe my eyes. The Ravens had lost another core member of the defense, and one of my favorite players of all time.

After many days of apparent deliberation, Reed had decided that he would take the money that Houston was offering, and join the Texans.

I expected Reed to leave, but at the same time, it just breaks my heart. I remember ordering my first Ravens jersey of my own, and the player I picked was Ed Reed. I always liked how the crowd would always drone “REEED” whenever he made a play. And now, there will me no more of those moments – at least not from Ravens fans. It just tugs at your heartstrings as a fan. (I guess I am a football dork.)

But what does Reed’s departure mean for the Ravens in general? There are a few things it does and does not mean. First, it does mean that Ozzie Newsome means serious business about not over paying players. It also means that he is pushing the reset button on the defense. He is getting younger, faster, and cheaper at whatever cost. What it does not mean, is that the Ravens will not regret letting Reed go. They will. Maybe not on the field, but they have no leaders in the locker room or film room to lead their new onslaught of rookies coming in this year. I do not see the advantage in letting Reed walk, especially after Ray Lewis’ retirement. And with the numbers I have been seeing thrown around with Reeds offer from the Texans (2-3 years for $16 million), in my eyes the Ravens could have easily matched. Why did the Ravens not push for the Hall of Famer? And now I see reports that Micheal Huff of the Raiders (who is 30, Reed is 34) is visiting? And you want HIM over Ed Reed? How does that make sense?

I trust Ozzie one-hundred percent. But this move makes me scratch my head. I understand that the NFL is a business, but how could you purely judge Reed’s value off of his on-field presence? Why, with Ray Lewis gone, do you let Reed go?

There are many reasons why I am not General Manager of the Baltimore Ravens, instead I write about them. So there probably is some logical reasoning behind this move, but I just do not get it.

At any rate, a huge thanks to Ed Reed for his time in Baltimore. He will always be one of my favorite players and he will be sorely missed. Best of luck to him at the Texans.

And I feel like doing this one last time, for old times sake:
REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED.

The Sky Is Not Falling…Yet

Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Correspondent

Free Agency has taken its first two players from the Ravens in Danelle Ellerbe and Paul Kruger. Ellerbe will be a linebacker in Miami for the next five years (at $35 million) and Kruger will be a defensive end in Cleveland also for the next five years (at $41 million).

I personally expected Kruger to go. Kruger going to Cleveland was probably the worst kept secret in the NFL going into yesterday and the Ravens were prepared to lose him after drafting Courtney Upshaw last year. Ellerbe was a bigger surprise considering the only news that anybody had heard was that he and the Ravens had not reached a deal by 4 PM; then later that night, news that he had signed with Miami came across the wire.

That was two days ago. Yesterday brought a whole new shock. Safety Bernard Pollard was released early yesterday morning. So what could the story possibly be behind this move? You could say that Pollard was a liability on the field with numerous personal fouls for high hits, but his ability on the field more than made up for that. Pollard was also behind a “mutiny” in October after the Ravens got trounced by Houston. He had two years left on his contract with the Ravens which points to Ozzie weighing his options with current talent with future cap situations and his bold new vision of where he want the team to be in the next four years.

The cap numbers next year for key players are absurd. Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Joe Flacco all break the $10 million mark and Ray Rice is supposed to get $9 million.

Before you say, “Kyle, you are just talking nonsense,” hear me out. When the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, they spent a lot of effort and money on reworking contracts of current veterans to keep the Super Bowl winning team together. While that might seem logical on paper, that idea put the Ravens in an awful cap situation that forced a mass purge of players in 2002. The sad reality is that Kruger and Ellerbe were going to go. Boldin was going to go. Let me repeat that: Boldin was going to go, no matter if Joe Flacco’s cap hit was $6 million or $8 million (so please stop blaming Flacco).

Ozzie Newsome is aiming for one thing, and one thing only: the long-term prosperity of the Baltimore Ravens. If that means that the Boldins and Todd Heaps and the Derrick Masons of the world have to get cut to keep that vision alive: so be it! I want a WINNING team for a long time, and not a back-to-back team that eventually has to get rid of all of its talent because the salary cap is rearing its ugly head and then the team is stuck rebuilding for the next three years. Both he and Bisciotti both said they would not let that happen again.

That was part one of the reality check, here’s part two: Ozzie Newsome is not done yet. Veteran Ed Reed is meeting with the Houston Texans today. If he walks out with an offer the Ravens do not want to match, so long Ed Reed. Happy trails, unless he is willing to finish his career in the same city it started for less money. Ozzie knows what he feels Reed is worth (Reed was also connected with the munity that Pollard was a part of). I would also expect Vonta Leech to be let go in the coming days.

What Ozzie knows and what fans need to remember is that football is a business. Teams do not have the luxury to get so emotionally attached to their players that they will endanger the long-term goal of the team to succeed so they can keep the Ed Reeds of the world. Of course: I could be completely wrong. Ed Reed could value career monogamy over the cash raise like Ray Lewis did (the both hired the same agent for the same kind of negotiation). And I kind of hope I am. But in case I am right: be prepared.

Buckle up; we are on Ozzie’s magic carpet ride now, and he is going onto a brave new world.

Free Agency Season – The Ravens Trade Boldin

Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

Welcome to free agency season. The time of year where headaches run rampant among fans and general managers and the Ravens are certainly no exception. The first cap casualty of the Baltimore squad is veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

He reportedly became the subject of a trade to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth round pick in this year’s draft.

Now: BEFORE you grab you pitch forks and torches to go burn down the Ravens’ facility, think about it.

Boldin’s cap hit was going to be $7.5 million unless he took a pay cut (which the Ravens offered and then he rejected). The Ravens, even though he was already counted in the cap number, could NOT afford him. Was he worth the full $7.5 million? Of course! But he needed to take a pay cut to make room for other agents like Danelle Ellerbe and Ed Reed. And if he was not going to budge, why would the Ravens cut him and still take his cap hit? Trading him was the smart thing to do. And it shows nothing but respect to Boldin in the fact that he got sent to a team that is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and out of the Ravens conference might I add. The extra $7.5 million gives the Ravens a decent cap number, a reported $18.5 million, after the trade.

Next come tenders. The Ravens issued two second-round tenders to restricted free agents Dennis Pitta and Arthur Jones and a third round tender to Ed Dickson last night. Restricted agent David Reed was given a two-year contract this morning. Both Dickson and Pitta will be crucial now that Boldin has left. Especially Pitta with ten touchdowns over last season including the playoffs. And David Reed will be fighting for a starting receiver slot.

The current status of the Ravens is about $13.1 million in free cap space. They are meeting with Danelle Ellerbe this morning to try and work out a contract before the floodgates open at 4 PM.

Remember:

Keep Calm.
And Trust Ozzie.

Superstitions & This Isn’t Reed’s Last Ride

Words: Kyle Simpson

There are quite a few headlines coming out of the Ravens’ facility this week. Here’s a quick rundown of the news in Owings Mills:

The Ravens began practicing yesterday for the Big Dance on February 3rd. The Super Bowl patches have been placed on the jerseys and the camera crews from CBS have arrived at the facility to take headshots and interview video of the Ravens. With them, they brought a few props such as footballs, helmets and one other prop that had everybody talking. That prop was a genuine, un-engraved Vince Lombardi Trophy. The greatest prize in the NFL was within reach. And that is the exact reason Ray Lewis demanded it was put away. What he said was essentially that they had not earned the real trophy yet, so they do not deserve it. The CBS Associate Director said few teams actually have an issue with taking shots with the Lombari trophy, but the Ravens do not want to leave anything to chance. “I don’t want to jinx it. That seems like a jinx,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith to baltimoreravens.com.

The other major story developing at the Under Armour Performance Center was Ed Reed’s announcement that he was indeed playing next year; no matter if February 3rd is a win or loss, or if he is in a Ravens’ uniform next year. The 11-year saftey’s six-year contract ends this year and he is worth a pretty penny; a pretty penny that the Ravens might not be able to afford with the salary cap. Danelle Ellerbe, Carrey Willams and Paul Kruger all have contracts that need renewal. And all three might not be able to come back depending on how well contract negotiations go with Joe Flacco. My ideal situation is that the Ravens win the Super Bowl and Reed walks away with Ray Lewis after winning in his hometown and we see them in Canton this time in five years. But nobody really knows with Reed, he has marched to his own drum for years, flipping back and forth between retirement and staying. As he put it his press conference, “this isn’t my last ride, I just got a bike.” I sincerely hope he will not be riding that bike in New England. Really, he could ride anywhere but New England and I would be okay.

One more week to the big day!

Road to the HarBOWL

Harbowl

Words: Kyle Simpson

You know that numb feeling? The one of sheer disbelief? Well that feeling was strong with me on Sunday night as I watched the Baltimore Ravens clinch their first Super Bowl berth in 12 years. Once again, the Ravens pulled off the impossible. They are heading to the Big Easy for one last stop on the final ride of Ray Lewis, thanks to a 28-15 victory over the New England Patriots, logging yet another chapter of this story book season.

The game itself was very entertaining (less intense after the second half, unlike the last outing). Flacco and the offense continued their hot streak notching 28 points (21 of which where in the second half) and picking apart the Patriots offense. Anquan Boldin enjoyed two touchdowns, while Ray Rice and Dennis Pitta both got one a piece. Turns out Justin Tucker’s leg was not needed in the clutch like last week against the Broncos, which I am okay with.

What did this game prove? Flacco has arrived. Let me show you some numbers:

29/54, 320 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions

21/36, 240 yards, 3 touchdowns

The top numbers are the product of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. The bottom were produced by Joe Flacco.

Would you believe me if I said in week 15 that the Joe Flacco that was laying face-down in the end zone after throwing a pick six would be the same Joe Flacco to out-duel two of football’s best quarterbacks of all time? I would not believe me. I would tell me that I am crazy. So what has happened to turn Joe around? Quite a few things.

First, The Ravens have finally found an offensive line that works, with Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher at right tackle (where he belongs, might I add), giving Flacco much more time to stretch plays and air the ball out more with his strong arm. Second, Joe is a MUCH better post-season quarterback. His levelheaded attitude really pays off in high intensity games when a team needs a level head under the center. And finally: Ray. Lewis.

Lewis told Joe something before the game in Denver. Something that, I think, will change Joe Flacco for good. Ray Lewis told Joe Flacco that he, Joe Flacco, was the general of the Ravens now, and Flacco had to lead the Ravens to victory. A position that Lewis has held for 17 years now rested squarely on the shoulders of the fifth-year player out of Delaware. Lewis commented after the game that he saw something different in Joe’s eyes during the game in Denver. A fire. I saw it too. I saw the same fire Sunday, as he picked apart New England and proved every pundit, analyst, hater and Skip Bayless wrong. He is Baltimore’s quarterback. He deserves a top five spot, and if it takes a Super Bowl ring to prove that that spot is his, then I’m inclined to believe he will get it.

He got the job done last year. He’s getting the job done this year. He has one game left between him, and what he has always deserved: respect.

This brings me back to number 52, Ray Lewis. The last game in his career will be the Super Bowl. Nobody could write a better ending to his storybook career. On his last playoff ride, he has participated in some of the best moments in Raven’s history: A double overtime playoff win and the vengeance upon New England to send the Ravens to their second Super Bowl. He will also never forget the last time he came out dancing into M&T Bank Stadium to the thunderous roar of 70,000 people. Hopefully he will add a Super Bowl win to his list of unbelievable moments on his last playoff ride in two weeks.

We are just under two weeks away from the Super Bowl, and I will have more coverage coming over the next two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

The Mile High Miracle

Ravensbroncos

Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Correspondent

The Mile High Miracle. That is the title that the Ravens game earned on Sunday after the Ravens upset the first seed Broncos 38-35 in double overtime. The Ravens shocked everybody by keeping pace with the explosive Denver offense helmed by Peyton Manning, tying the Broncos in every single quarter of the game, score for score. Let’s break down this victory that some are calling the best in Ravens history.

The first quarter started off on the wrong foot with Trindon Holliday returning a Ravens punt for a 90-yard touchdown. The Ravens answered with a 59-yard bomb to Torrey Smith to tie it up early. The next drive started very poorly for Peyton Manning and the Broncos, with the second pass being intercepted by Corey Graham for a touchdown. The Ravens had taken the lead. Manning then orchestrated a drive to tie up the game again near the end of the first quarter at 14 with a touchdown pass to former Raven Brendon Stokley.

The second quarter picked up right where the first left off. Denver drove and took the lead with a 14-yard pass to Knowshon Moreno. The Ravens answered with another 32-yard pass to Torrey Smith, again beating Champ Bailey to tie it up going into half time, which was crucial considering that Denver would get the ball to start the second half.

And get the ball they did. Tridon Holliday returned another kick for seven points and putting Denver up 28-21. The rest of the quarter was punt after punt until the waning seconds of the third quarter when Ray Rice ran it in to tie it up for the fourth time that game. It all came down to the fourth quarter. Sound familiar?

Half way through the quarter, Denver pulled ahead thanks to a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. The Ravens had seven minutes to score seven points. The first time they got the ball, Jacoby Jones (he’ll be important later) dropped the possible first down pass on third and five, forcing the Ravens to punt with about three minutes left in regulation. Most thought this would be the end of Ray Lewis’ last ride, but he saw it another way. The defense made a stand and forced a Denver punt with just over a minute and a half left to play. The Ravens had a few good passes and got the 30 yard line. They advanced eight yards and were stumped at third and two. With a little over 30 seconds left. Joe Flacco hiked the ball on a Hail Mary for overtime. He scrambled out of the pocket to avoid a sack and heaved it down field at Jacoby Jones. Jones beat the safety guarding him and caught the 70-yard catch for a touchdown to tie the game within the last 30 seconds. The stuff of legend. One ESPN analyst called it the “Flacco Fling”.

Now, it was overtime. The most stressful part of the game was upon us. The Ravens got the first possession in hopes of getting a game-ending touchdown. However, the Ravens were forced to punt on both of their first two possessions and the Broncos punted on their first. The Broncos would have the ball at the end of the first overtime, if the MacBook (Manning) had not glitched. Manning rolled out of the pocket and tried to hit Brendon Stokley in stride, but instead found Corey Graham. This put the Ravens within ten yards of field goal range in the second overtime. Thanks to a great run by Ray Rice, the Ravens got there. Justin Tucker lined up the kick and split the uprights from 47-yards and the Ravens’ upset was complete. They were moving on the the AFC Championship for the second year in a row.

That was Saturday. What are the Ravens heading into this week? The New England Patriots. Deja Vu. Here we are, it had to go down this way. Could you see it going any other way? Not me, personally. And I am a really glad that this opportunity has risen again. I will be going more in depth later this week as the magic day approaches, but for now: the Ravens are nine and half point underdogs, again.

Many people are saying that this week was a fluke, that the Broncos mistakes were the reason the Ravens walked away victorious. That is a lie. The Ravens played just as hard as the Broncos did. And what makes good teams good? The ability to capitalize off of other team’s mistakes and miscues like interceptions, bad play calling and gaffed field goals. Joe Flacco out played Peyton Manning (by the way, Peyton Manning is considered “Elite” if you did not know). And let’s be honest with ourselves, if the Ravens special teams came to play, Denver could possibly lose 14 points oof of the kick returns. People hate to admit it, but the Ravens are here and they are ready to play in New Orleans.

I will close with this: the Ravens have just as good a chance as anybody to make it to the big dance on February 3rd. Saying the Ravens win on Saturday was fluke is a joke. Saying the Ravens will get smashed on Sunday is an even funnier joke. The boys in purple are just as fired up as ever. They feed off the energy of being the underdog, and this Sunday they are out for vengeance (without Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff this time). They will not give up. That is just who they are, they stick around to the bitter end. Ray Rice told reporters after the game Saturday: “We are a team of destiny. I’ll say it again: we are a team of destiny.” The Ravens players do not say die either.

Ravens-Broncos Preview: A Chess Match for the Ages

Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

The weekend is finally upon us where, once and for all, a week of speculation is put to rest. The Ravens go to battle with the Denver Broncos in a game that many have written off as an easy win for Denver, leaving the Ravens as 10-point underdogs. Let me tell you why it is not wise to write off the Baltimore Ravens.

The team that played three weeks ago and got smashed by the Broncos in Baltimore will not be showing up this week. The Ravens offense as of late has been stepping up to make plays, unlike in the last match-up where the first half was plagued by turnovers that Denver capitalized on easily. Joe Flacco put up fantastic numbers against the Colts last week (12/23, 282 yards, 2 touchdowns, 125.6 quarterback rating) and played very well in the Giants game.

If the Ravens want to win, the offense needs to come out strong and maintain a presence in the game. The Ravens have also had quite a few players step up and make plays when they need them to, such as corner backs Chykie Brown and Corey Graham. Both of who have been playing well the last few weeks they have started. The Ravens have also appeared to have figured out their offensive line situation by putting Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and putting Micheal Oher at right tackle, where he belongs. The offensive seemed to hold up well against the Colts, giving Flacco a lot of time in the pocket and holding the Colts to one sack. Another major part of the Ravens’ offense has been Ray Rice (rushed for over 100 yards, despite two fumbles) and Bernard Pierce (rushed for a combined 300 yards in the last two games) on the ground.

The Ravens also are a healthier team with safety Bernard Pollard, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, right guard Marshal Yanda, tight end Ed Dickson, and of course Ray Lewis all making returns to the field. Out of all of these players, Lewis brings the most impact. Not necessarily physical impact (though Lewis did lead the team last week with 13 tackles), Lewis brings a mental presence unmatched by any other player on the Ravens defense. He, just like Peyton Manning, is a chess master at football.

Oh, yeah. Manning. That guy. You have probably heard his name all week. And for good reason, he is probably one of the best quarterbacks to ever live. Bernard Pollard even called him “A MacBook” (which is where Ashley Fox of ESPN got her clever opening line for her article she posted earlier in the week). Is he a computer? Coach John Harbaugh said in his press conference earlier in the week, “he might have the brain of a computer, but he is still a man.” Could not put it better myself. Can you one hundred percent shut down Manning? No, but you sure can contain him. He threw for just over 200 yards against the Ravens four weeks ago, his fewest this year. He is also historically is shaky in the post season, Manning is 0-3 in his post season career in game below forty degrees (it is supposed to be around seventeen degrees at kick off) and 1-3 in post season games after a bye week. Manning is not a young guy either. He is 36. As Gerry Sandusky put it, “He has to battle Mother Nature and Father time.”

So am I saying that the Ravens have the win locked up and should begin preparations for the AFC Championship because it is going to be a bit brisk out in Denver? Of course not. What I am saying is: do not count the boys in purple out. They have surprised in the past and they absolutely love when they are the underdogs. They feed off the energy to prove people wrong and go out and play hard. If they can contain the Denver offense and Flacco and the Ravens offense show up ready to work, there is a very good chance the Ravens move on.
Expect a good match-up between the Broncos and the Ravens. Forget the point spread. My prediction is 23-20, Ravens out on top. We, in all likelihood, will be throwing Justin Tucker a parade when he gets back to Baltimore. Ray Lewis’ career will not end in Denver, contrary to popular belief.

ESPN Writes Off The Ravens

photo

Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

The Ravens have a tough game ahead, no doubt (they are 9 point underdogs). The Broncos are a great team and it will be a great game on Saturday. Most of the sports writers in the community have written the Ravens off as an easy loss and already talking about a Denver-New England AFC Championship. Most notably ESPN as they ran an opinion article by Ashley Fox on their website front page titled “Thanks for the Memories, Because Sunday was Your Last Win, Ray Lewis. Your Career Ends in Denver.”

The article title led to massive amounts of outrage from the Ravens fan base. Calling the article “disrespectful” and “a joke”. The rage does not stop there though; in her article, Fox says, “Baltimore would have to short circuit the MacBook [Peyton Manning] to win Saturday. Remove the hard drive, pour beer on the keyboard, take a hammer to the screen, whatever works. That is the only-the only way that the Ravens can beat the Broncos…”

Granted, as a writer, Fox is entitled to her own opinion, but there is a line where your opinion should be toned back, especially in your title on the front page. No team should be written off, even if they are nine point underdogs, the way Fox wrote it. That is just bad taste on her part and the fans have a right to be upset. As one fan on the Ravens message board put it: “As much as I hate Skip [Bayless], this crosses the line.”

It is apparent that Fox is assuming that the Ravens team that showed up three weeks ago will be showing up with no changes on either side of the ball. Which is just simply untrue. Her article was completely biased and appeared to be completely based on the betting line.

A more in-depth analysis of Saturday’s game will be posted here later this week, but the Ravens are a very different team then they were three weeks ago. Expect a good match-up, despite the nine-point underdog status.

The Last Dance

Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Correspondent

Baltimore, MD – It was a bittersweet day walking into M&T Bank Stadium yesterday. Everybody was walking in knowing what to expect, but not really prepared to face the hard truth, this was the last time they were going to see Ray Lewis dance out of the tunnel and play in M&T Bank Stadium.

.
It was the most crowded I have ever seen the stadium before the game, most of the 71,284 attendees were in their seats ten minutes before the game to make sure they did not miss Ray coming out of the tunnel. The Indianapolis Colts were introduced coming onto the field, meeting a mix of cheers and booing, the former for Coach Chuck Pagano and the latter for the team many believed were stolen from Baltimore. After that was over an announcement came over the loudspeaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, here. Come. THE RAVENS!” and the crowd went berserk. The offense and back up defensive players made a tunnel for the starting defensive players. Name after name was called met with cheering and clapping from the crowd for their beloved defense as per usual, “Terrence Cody”, “Haloti Ngata”, “Terrell Suggs”. Most of the players kept their usual celebrations short, Terrell Suggs especially. Instead of walking into the crowd of his teammates flapping his arms like wings and then standing in the middle and raising his arms, he walked half way, looked back at the tunnel then ran the rest of the way. Then Ed Reed ran out putting his index finger to his lips and pointed back at the tunnel. The moment had arrived, they showed Ray in the tunnel on the big screen, on his hands and knees, head on the floor, saying a prayer before running out.

.
“Thirteen-time pro-bowler…,” the crowd begins to cheer, “two-time defensive player of the year…,” the noise level goes from a dull roar to an all out frenzy of sound, “number fifty-two. RAY. LEWIS.” In that moment, it was the loudest I have ever heard M&T Bank Stadium get. Lewis did the dance that got me into football and was met by hugs and high-fives from the other 52 men on the roster. There was not a single dry eye in the stadium after that. Every person in that stadium was ready to do what ever they had to to give the man a win in his last home game, players and fans alike. Whenever Lewis’ face would appear on the big screen the crowd would cheer and scream. They wanted to send the man that had been there literally since the beginning of the franchise off right, and let him know how much what he had done for Baltimore football meant to them.

.
At the end of the day, Lewis notched a team leading 13 tackles, and was instrumental in holding the Colts to only three field goals. Lewis walked off the field after the last defensive series with his good friend Ed Reed and was met by more high-fives and hugs from the coaching staff. He thought he had played his last series at M&T Bank Stadium. He was in the process of taking off his pads when head coach John Harbaugh told him to put his pads back on. With thirty-five seconds on the clock, referee Micheal Carrie announced “Number fifty-two is declaring eligible.” Ray Lewis’ last down of football in M&T Bank was played on offense as a running back. And as Joe Flacco took a knee to run the clock out and win the game, Lewis did one last dace at mid-field. One last Squirrel, met by a chant of “Thank you, Ray” and monumental cheering. He did a “Ripken Victory Lap” around the field (like Cal Ripken did when he retired, hence the name) thanking all the fans that had supported him over his 17 year career.

.
Though it was Lewis’ final home game, the number of games he has left in his career is still to be determined. The Ravens face off against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver on Saturday at 4:30 PM. From there the Ravens would advance to their third AFC Championship in five years against the winner of the Patriots-Texans game held on Sunday at 1 PM.

Overall, the entire game was a surreal experience for me. It was hard to comprehend that this was the last time I get to see Ray Lewis play in person. As many people have said on radio call-ins and comments on articles about Lewis, he was an inspiration to the players, coaches, and fans. There will be no one like him, and I look forward to listening to his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in five years. But for now, I am excited to watching my favorite team make a run for the Super Bowl, more emotionally charged than ever.

.
The general vibe of the players status updates, interviews, and tweets after the game that I read on the way home from the stadium all said one thing: “We have to get to Louisiana, for him.” Expect inspired football from number 52 and the men in purple over the next few weeks as they make a run for Louisiana.