Ray Lewis has now experienced four consecutive playoff berths with the Ravens. This is an amazing display of consistency for a team that flip-flopped between winning and losing records during the early part of the 2000s. Even more impressively, the Ravens have made it to the divisional round or further during all four years, the only team to do so in this time span.
But with no Super Bowls to show for that four-year stretch, that means there has been lots of playoff heartbreak. From surrendering a 21-7 lead to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 postseason to the interception touchdown from Troy Polamalu in the 2008 AFC Championship, it's been brutal seeing the Ravens make their playoff exits. Playoff exits that are far sooner then they should be.
The AFC Championship loss to the New England Patriots this past season was on a whole other level of pain. The Ravens thoroughly outplayed the Patriots with Joe Flacco finally having that great postseason game his critics had demanded while the Ravens defense made Tom Brady look ordinary the whole game. Yet it all ended first with the Lee Evans drop and then with Billy Cundiff's infamous wide left kick.
Last year more than any other, the Ravens had to know that they were good enough to win a Super Bowl. And even with offseason troubles like Terrell Suggs's injury and Ed Reed's drama, the Ravens are still that good.
Lewis knows this and he's got to be fired up about it. Eleven long years have passed since he won Super Bowl MVP at the youthful age of 25. He is the only player remaining from that championship team and the only player on the Ravens team with a Super Bowl ring.
It's time for the Harbaugh era Ravens to prove they were more than just contenders. Time for Lewis to get a second ring and Reed to get one in the twilight of his career. Time for Flacco to finally silence the critics and show he can be a championship winning quarterback.
Even though the 2012 season hasn't started, the Ravens are approaching the year with that mentality. Lewis will be leading the way for perhaps his final season in the NFL. There can be no better way for him to go out then for him to give football fans one more stellar season and then walk away from New Orleans with a second Super Bowl ring.