Ravens vs. Broncos: Ray Lewis' Career Will End with Inglorious Defeat to Denver

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 06: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens during a game against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The career of Ray Lewis will reach an ignominious conclusion with a loss at the hands of the Denver Broncos in the NFL Divisional Round.

Lewis is the greatest Baltimore Raven of all time and one of the best linebackers in the history of the NFL. Few players have ever been able to inspire their teams as much as Lewis has.

You could see exactly how much Lewis means to his teammates and Ravens fans at the beginning and end of their 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Round. Lewis could have been excused for possibly looking a little rusty, having not played since October. However, he was fantastic, recording nine solo tackles and four assisted tackles.

The Colts were tough opposition, but they'll offer nothing close to the quality of the Broncos.

No team in the league is as complete as Denver.

The Broncos defense gave up only 290.8 yards a game, second in the NFL. In addition, the 18.1 points a game they surrendered during the regular season ranked fourth.

Then, of course, there's Peyton Manning.

Many wondered whether after neck surgery he would ever be the same player again. Manning definitely made his doubters feel foolish. It's as if he missed no time at all prior to this season, picking up exactly where he left off from 2010 before the injury.

He is going to cause the Ravens secondary fits all game long. In past years, facing a passer of Manning's prowess wouldn't have been as much of a concern for the Baltimore defense as it is now. But, after maintaining such a great defense for so long, the Ravens have dropped off this year, surely in part to the injury to Lewis. Regardless, the defense in 2012 gave up an average of 228 yards a game through the air, 17th in the NFL.

Despite the 15-point difference in their wild-card win, Baltimore only had 22 more yards offensively than Indianapolis.

Andrew Luck threw a huge interception, but it was hard to envision a quarterback who was picked off 18 times during the regular season having an error-free postseason.

Luck was an inexperienced rookie, whereas playoff football is second nature to Manning.

Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are going to present serious matchup problems for the Ravens secondary.

Though Joe Flacco has played decently in recent playoff games, he's always had the luxury of falling back against that great Ravens defense. He will not have that luxury this postseason.

Flacco, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce all had very good games, but the Colts defense is nowhere near the level of the Broncos. That trio will find yards much harder to come by this Saturday.

With everything Lewis has given the Ravens and the league as a whole, it would be appropriate if Baltimore could make one last run to the Super Bowl.

It's just not in the cards, though, as the Ravens are simply too overmatched by the Broncos.