Repeatedly chastised for what he isn’t instead of praised for what he is, quarterback Joe Flacco has led the Ravens to playoff victories over the Indianapolis Colts and Manning, two obstacles of significant note in the eyes of Baltimoreans. And there’s been no debating his role in those wins as Flacco has looked every bit the part of a top-tier quarterback in each win.
Prior to Saturday’s game in Denver, the battle-worn Lewis passed the torch to Flacco, telling the 28-year-old he now held the title of “The General” that the linebacker has owned since the Ravens began playing games here in Baltimore. He responded to the gesture with the greatest victory of his five-year career.
It’s all too perfect, yet imperfect enough to leave us on the edge of our seats as we watch the next act unfold Sunday in Foxborough.
A group left for dead just a few short weeks ago now finds itself back in the position it so desperately wanted to reach over these last 12 months. The Ravens are 60 minutes away from vindication and validation, and they’ll have the chance to achieve it in the same venue where they fell excruciatingly short one year ago.
“Everyone’s a fighter, everyone has heart,” Smith said. “When you have leaders like we have on our team, it is hard to not want to follow them and be a fighter and never throw the towel in. We have been through it all – whether on the field or off the field – and we became stronger for it. Our coaches always say, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ and I think we are definitely a testament to that.”
Once again labeled underdogs as they face Tom Brady and New England with a trip to the Super Bowl hanging in the balance for the second year in a row, the Ravens are quietly confident that Sunday won’t be their final chapter. And viewing this season in the scope of a storybook, there are delicious details that can still be revealed as we wait for what next unfolds.
Future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed could finally play in a Super Bowl in New Orleans, less than an hour from where he grew up.
Flacco could silence his many naysayers once and for all by leading his Ravens to the Super Bowl and officially taking his place among the game’s top quarterbacks.
Harbaugh could meet his brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers in what would be one of the most remarkable coaching stories ever seen at Super Bowl XLVII.
And Lewis, the man who’s meant everything to the Ravens as we’ve watched him and the franchise evolve from fresh-faced rookies into Baltimore institutions over the last 17 years, could close the book on a legendary career on the grandest stage. The entire world could watch him dance one last time.
It all seems too fitting to think about, but the Ravens’ heroics of the last few weeks have now made it a very real possibility for No. 52.
“It’s the most evident part of it,” Harbaugh said. “It’s right out there in front for everybody to see. Ray has been the franchise since . He’s been the one stable element that has been here from the beginning. So, it’s pretty evident and pretty obvious, and we are all real proud of that, and we’re all excited to be a part of that.”
No, the Ravens may not be a team of destiny, but there are too many details in this storybook for it not to feel a lot like it.
And we can’t wait to see what happens next.