After today, Ray Lewis’ career is over. His pronounced retirement tour might have served as a temporary boost to the team’s morale, a necessary component in their rout of the Indianapolis Colts, marking Lewis’ farewell in Baltimore a victorious one.
But now he’s a distraction, and on Saturday, the Denver Broncos will provide a definitive answer to the question: “When is Ray Lewis retiring?”
Peyton Manning has always had postseason success against the Ravens. In 2010, the Colts beat the Ravens 20-3 and again in 2007, 15-6. Both games were divisional playoff games.
Now, Peyton Manning won't be the sole reason for the Ravens' loss.
They Ravens are playing old and tired as the season dwindles down. In the 2012 season, the Ravens defense only allowed 17 TDs in their first 11 games. In their last five games, the Ravens went 1-4 and allowed 13 TDs.
The Ravens suffered setbacks due to injuries from key players like Lewis and Ed Reed, while the returning Terrell Suggs fought to return to form.
And though they put up an impressive win over the New York Giants, holding Eli & Co. to just 186 total yards and two TDs, the Giants themselves were struggling to find consistency.
The win against the Colts was both impressive and a return to midseason form, partly inspired by Lewis’ emotional announcement. The Colts possessed the ball for a majority of the game, but couldn’t find an open end zone.
Baltimore showed up on big plays, forcing the Colts to kick a field goal after three key third down situations. Overall, the Colts were nine for 20 on third downs.
Forcing two key fourth downs in the fourth quarter, the Ravens defense capitalized, intercepting Andrew Luck on the first and forcing an incomplete pass on the second.
This game was the best the Ravens have played since November, but can they keep it up? The excitement and pride of Ray Lewis’ last game in Baltimore has all but subsided, and the spotlight is still on No. 52 to the point of being a distraction.
“Ray is a great player,” Manning said to the Baltimore Sun. “You definitely can just see from watching the TV ... that he brought a boost to that team now that he's back.”
If they can ride that wave, the Ravens defense might be able to get it together and accomplish something that’s always been difficult: contain Peyton Manning.
But if they continue the pace at which they ended the season, the last game of Lewis’ career will be a bittersweet one.