Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
According to the Denver Broncos, this was supposed to be Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis' "retirement party."
Unfortunately, no one cleared that party with Ray first, as he obviously had zero intention of making this his final game in a 17-year illustrious and certain first-ballot Hall of Fame career. Perhaps this will the fairy tale ending that Baltimore fans envisioned when he made the announcement that this would be his "last ride."
No one else, even admittedly this writer, expected the Ravens to go on the road and win a month after losing badly to this same Broncos team in Baltimore only a month ago. However, the absence of Lewis in that game, along with a few other significant starters, obviously made a huge difference.
None bigger than the impact Ray had on yesterday's final outcome. Lewis was the leading tackler in the game, including both teams, by far, with 17 combination tackles. In the NFL, anything over ten is a great game, but 17 is a monster game. No other player had more than ten on either side (Ravens' Terrell Suggs).
For a guy who constantly has to hear the so-called experts saying how he is no longer the player he once was, how he has lost a step and even suggesting that he is a defensive liability, this proves why I keep saying that not only is Ray Lewis the best linebacker to ever play the game, that to continue to play at such a high level over 17 grueling seasons, as he proved last night, makes him my choice as the greatest NFL player of all time bar none.
The Broncos scored five touchdowns yesterday but two of them were on Special Teams returns and two others were in the first half. The Baltimore defense held Denver to only one score from midway through the second quarter through the entire second half and the two overtime periods, which included two possessions when any score by the Broncos would have ended the game.
With all the odds stacked against the Ravens defense stopping the high-flying Broncos offense, it was the Baltimore offense which upstaged Denver and one man with the biggest heart and strongest desire on the defensive side of the ball whose play said out loud, "I'm not ready to retire just yet."