Unto the Breach. Ray Lewis leaves M&T Bank Stadium for the last time in style with a 24 - 9 triumph over Indianapolis. The old guy led the team in tackles and played a major role in the victory.
It was obvious there were a lot of emotions, on both sides of the field, at the start. Ravens seemed a little tense- fired up by Ray Lewis's last home game but trying to not to overdo it on the field -they played tight for most of the first half. There seemed to be a lot of uncharacteristic nerves for the Ravens.
In the end, however, they were able make a few adjustments and were able to take advantage of what Indianapolis was giving them and cashed in when they needed to. In the end, the veteran Raven team took over and brought this game home for the fans, for the city, and for Ray.
Ray Lewis. Last home game, and he played well. Lead the team in tackles, almost had an interception that a younger, healthier Ray (without the plate-mail arm brace) would have tucked away. Even though he did get blocked a couple of times, was a step late here and there, and couldn't always avoid getting caught up in the wash, he did make a fair number of plays at the line of scrimmage and even behind the line of scrimmage. Is he most dominant currently playing MLB? No, not by a long shot. But can he still be productive in an NFL playoff game and lead his defense to victory -absolutely.
Boldin. He just flicks a switch and BOOM! He can take over a game.
Pitta. Proves that he can get a few hard YAC just like Dickson.
Yanda. Not often I notice a lineman, but he just seemed to have his way with whomever was lined up across from him. I was like, did he just pancake that dude? Five yards down field? Overall, the entire O-line was spotty, but they did just enough to facilitate the offense. At this juncture, that is probably the best we can hope for.
Torrey. He only had two receptions for 30 yards. However, my comments last week were almost prescient in that yesterday, his downfield blocking was phenomenal. His downfield blocking was just as responsible for the big plays as the ball carrier. Very impressive. He may very well become the Ravens most complete receiver, ever.
Pierce. If I told you 13 for 103, you'd say that's Rice. Nope. Pierce. He may end up being the steal of the draft.
Flacco. His numbers won't raise any eyebrows, but it is what he didn't do. He didn't lose the football, didn't throw a pick, and he only ate it one time in which I thought he could have thrown it away. He avoided several sacks by wisely getting rid of it several times today. Veteran QB who lead his offense to victory. What more could you ask for?
Cary Williams. Yes, he got beat a few times, but for the most part a pretty solid game and of course the game clinching pick.
Kruger. He has really, really come on at the end of the season. 2.5 sacks, including a sack-strip-fumble. I don't think the Ravens are going to let him walk after this season.
Corey Graham. If at the beginning of the season you had told me our starting playoff corners were going to be Cary and Graham, I would have been running for the nearest ledge. But he just makes plays.
The Ravens defense. Indianapolis averages over twenty point on the road. Indy was held to nine points today which matched their lowest (Jets also held them to nine on the road). I got awfully tired of hearing all week, "You better not let Luck get the ball late in the fourth quarter down by one score or less..." Well, that assumes Luck even gets that close. Luck only completed 50% of his passes, for less than 300 yards (with a boatload of garbage time to boot), for less than a 60 QB rating, with two turnovers and no TD's. The Ravens defense was jacked up. When we have all of our "bigs" healthy, we have a pretty good, veteran defense. No rook is going to come into our house, against our healthy defense, in the playoffs, and have their way with us. No sir. Indy was kept out of the endzone. No team can beat us with just field goals.
Pollard. Yes, he was a victim of a questionable call. But then you then don't go and compound it. He is veteran, his team is winning -he knows better. I just don't get how this team loses focus so much. Maybe it is the cumulative effect of all the games over the past five years. The Ravens will have played at least 18 games for five straight years. At a certain level, maybe that is fatiguing; I don't know...
Penalties. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot so many times, one would think the gun would have jammed by now and we'd stop doing it...
Rice. Specifically protecting the football. He had a nice day yardage wise, but in the playoffs, it is all about protecting the football.
Ray-Ray's last home game ever. Bittersweet day as in the victory was sweet, but bitter to shed tears for Ray's departure. Nice gesture letting him in on the kneel-down play at the end. He will be missed at the Big ATM.
Toughest challenge of the season coming up. Going on the road, to the altitude on a short week (Saturday game) while Denver has been cooling their heels for two straight weeks. Peyton & Co. are unfortunately firing on all cylinders. If the defense can keep the Broncos out of the end zone, or extremely limit them, we have a shot. The odds are stacked against us. But the Ravens are a veteran team- they know how to face and overcome adversity. Ravens are for the most part healthy. When the Ravens are mostly healthy, they can play with anybody, anywhere.
It has been a great season! Current regime, core, group, whatever you want to call it, has won at least one playoff game for five straight seasons. Never been done before in the Super Bowl era. We have a very good shot of making it six in a row next year. P-burgh can't say that; Brady can't say that. We just need to get over the hump. Maybe Ray, the defense, heck the hole team, can dig down just a little deeper than the past four years, correct that one thing that bites them, and bring it all home.