Lewis, Ravens advance in playoffs by dumping Indy
Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis celebrates after an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, in Baltimore. Lewis has said he will retire at the end of the season, and the Ravens won 24-9. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
After receiving rave reviews for its closing act in Baltimore, The Ray Lewis Retirement Tour heads to Denver for another show.
When Lewis and the Ravens go up against the top-seeded Broncos this Saturday, they won't receive as warm a reception as they did in their game against the Indianapolis Colts.
With Lewis leading the way, Baltimore eliminated the Colts with a 24-9 victory Sunday to set up a rematch against Denver in the second round of the AFC playoffs.
Following a 12-week layoff with a torn right biceps, Lewis led the Ravens with 13 tackles to spark an emotional win in the final home game of his spectacular 17-year career. The 37-year-old middle linebacker intends to retire after Baltimore completes its current playoff run.
If the Ravens have their way, Lewis won't peel off his No. 52 jersey for the final time until Baltimore walks off the field in New Orleans after the Super Bowl.
"We all have a goal in mind, and we're focused in on that goal," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said.
Lewis began his emotional farewell to Baltimore with his trademark dance during introductions, a scene that captivated the sellout crowd, his teammates and even a few of the Colts.
Around three hours later, Lewis lined up at fullback as Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco took a knee on the game's final play. Then Lewis danced some more before taking a lap around the field to pay homage to the thousands of fans who refused to leave until he did.
"We're all appreciative, grateful for the opportunity to be here and to witness this historic moment in sports," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And, it wasn't just about one guy. Nobody understands it more than the one guy we're talking about. It was about a team. It was about a city, a fan base, about a great sport, about a great career. I'm just humbled to be a part of it."
The Ravens (11-6) absolutely refused to lose on Lewis' final stand in Baltimore. Boldin set a team record with 145 yards receiving, Flacco threw for 282 yards and two scores and the defense relentlessly harassed rookie quarterback Andrew Luck while holding the Colts (11-6) without a touchdown.
"We all wanted to play well for him and make sure it wasn't his last game," Boldin said.
For Lewis and the Ravens, it amounted to a solid performance on a near-perfect day.
"I knew how it started, but I never knew how it was going to end here in Baltimore," Lewis said. "For it to go the way it went today, I wouldn't change nothing."
The Ravens are the only NFL team to reach the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, and they've won at least one game in each of those trips. To get to the AFC title game for the third time in that span, Baltimore will have to beat a Denver team that breezed past the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore last month.
"It's onto the next one," Lewis said. "We saw them earlier in the year and now we get them back again, but with all of our guns back."
The loss ended a season in which the Colts went from 2-14 to the playoffs in coach Chuck Pagano's first year in Indianapolis. Pagano missed 12 weeks while undergoing treatment for leukemia and returned last week.
Baltimore's former defensive coordinator believes the Colts will benefit from the experience.
"The foundation is set, and we said we were going to build one on rock and not on sand," Pagano said. "You weather storms like this and you learn from times like this."
Owner Jim Irsay said: "This year was incredible. It was special and unique in so many ways. It was one of the most special seasons in Colts history and probably in NFL history. I couldn't have imagined how this season would have played out. We had a coach fighting for his life, we reorganized, won 11 games and went to the playoffs. ... To say that our future is bright is an understatement."
Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who went 9-3 as interim coach, was absent Sunday after being hospitalized with flu-like symptoms. Pagano said Arians "is fine" and would stay overnight for observation before rejoining the Colts on Monday.
Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen called the plays, but he couldn't come up with a way to foil Baltimore's hard-charging defense.
"It's great making the playoffs, but you can't make mistakes and expect to beat a playoff team," said Luck, who threw an interception and was sacked three times. "We'll have to look back at those and hopefully fix them."
Indy's only points came on three field goals by Adam Vinatieri, from 47, 52 and 26 yards. He also missed from 40 yards.
NOTES: Reggie Wayne of the Colts had 114 yards on nine receptions and moved into second in career playoff catches with 92. He's 59 behind Jerry Rice. ... Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe sprained an ankle. Harbaugh said, "I don't know how serious it is. We'll have to see." ... Baltimore's Paul Kruger had 2 1/2 sacks ... Ravens RB Ray Rice lost two fumbles. He fumbled only once during the regular season.