Ray Lewis danced on the final play of the game, and then made his final lap around M&T Bank Stadium Sunday. The emotion from the players, the organization and the entire crowd was at an all-time high, only amassed by the Super Bowl victory in 2001. It was a nice way to send off the greatest player in franchise history; but was it too much.
After the game, the Ravens celebrated more than winning the division, more than beating the Steelers, more than making it to the AFC Championship game. The fans witnessed the emotional high of a championship team; yet that was only the Wild Card round. There was a reoccurring theme, specifically from Ray, in the post-game interviews, which the word “finish” came up all too often. This season is not finished; that part of the vocabulary should have been an afterthought. Did this team win its Super Bowl already? The reaction by their team leader will lead you to believe so.
Now, heading to Denver, to take on the arch nemesis, Peyton Manning, Baltimore must prepare for a not only one of the best offenses, but elite defenses in the league. Can this team get up again, after exhausting their entire emotional core last Sunday? Coming off a short week and playing in high altitudes puts this team in a disadvantage already. Looking at the Broncos roster and performance four weeks ago in Baltimore, this game seems unlikely for victory. But putting yourselves into an emotional loss may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Though it is a nice story and probably the right thing to do for the fans of Baltimore, Ray Lewis’ retirement announcement may have doomed the fate for the Ravens. It gave an edge to the team in a matchup against a former Defensive Coordinator and recent cancer survivor. But what do they do now? Can this team live up to the hype of that victory against the former Baltimore franchise?
Maybe the Ravens can continue the ride, but it already has taken a lot out of them and will take a lot more to surpass Manning, followed by Brady at home or a Texans team that worked them before the bye week.