Ray Lewis: "There's no greater ride"
The Ravens saw the billboards around town. There was an electronic countdown for the retirement of Ray Lewis. The defense didn’t need to get up for the New England Patriots. But when it comes to Lewis, who is ending his career after 17 seasons, the AFC championship game suddenly became more personal.
“It gave us fuel. It gave us fire. When we got Ray Lewis back, when he said it was his last go-round we knew we had to do it for him,” defensive end Arthur Jones said. “When you come out and you disrespect our leader …that just gave us more fuel to play lights out.”
That they did. The Patriots went into halftime with a 13-7 lead but never scored again. While Tom Brady threw for 320 yards, he wasn’t able to make the signature big plays to bring his team back.
Lewis went out with a torn triceps in Week 6. He returned for the wild-card playoff game vs. the Indianapolis Colts, had a game-high 17 tackles in the divisional playoff game at the Denver Broncos and spearheaded a unit that held Brady to one TD and no points in the second half.
Lewis was MVP of the Super Bowl in 2001 in the Ravens’ only other appearance. His “last ride,” as he calls it, will end in New Orleans on Feb. 3 vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
“Ray isn’t the only guy here,” receiver Torrey Smith said of veterans on the team who they desperately wanted to get back to the Super Bowl. “He has one (appearance). We have Ed Reed. He’s never been to the Super Bowl. Terrell Suggs. Anquan Boldin has never won one. These are all guys we play for as well.”
In his third season, Jones has blossomed into one of the Ravens’ most reliable linemen. Nothing was going to get in his way with Lewis on his mind.
“The main thing we had to do is stay poised. We knew they were going to do that no-huddle, fast-paced offense,” Jones said. “We remember them from last year and how that lost felt and we weren’t going to be denied tonight.”