“The whole year has been kind of a roller coaster because of the injuries,” said Lewis. “The first time me and Ed and Sizzle [Suggs] actually played together this year was the Colts [playoff] game, so there are so many things that we had to fight through all year. But for us to fight through it and be where we are now I think collectively as a group we’re really starting to dial things in.”
Once the playoffs began the Ravens reverted to their customary winter plumage. Since the 2000 season only Tampa Bay has conceded fewer postseason yards per game than Baltimore’s 272 and the 14.8 points they’ve allowed is the lowest team average since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Indianapolis managed only three field goals in the wild-card game, marking the ninth time since 2000 that Baltimore has given up 10 or fewer points in a playoff outing.
And though Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns against them last week, the Ravens got the job done when they needed to. When Manning was trying to run out the clock in regulation, they stopped him shy of midfield, giving Joe Flacco time to hook up with Jacoby Jones for the 70-yard “Mile High Miracle” that forced overtime. Then Graham, who’d already returned one pick for a touchdown, filched the killer to set up Justin Tucker’s winning 47-yard boot.
Thus has the circle come around to where everything ended a year ago — same rival, same building, same stakes. “We were a catch away, a field goal away from going to the Super Bowl,” mused Lewis.
It was a particularly bitter moment for the defense, which had kept Tom Brady from running out the clock and given the offense one final chance. When Billy Cundiff’s tying field goal attempt sailed wide, Lewis and his mates had to take the field once more just to watch Brady take a knee. This time, they crave turnabout.
“This is what we signed up for,” Pollard said. “In OTAs and training camp we said the Super Bowl was our stop. We just don’t want to stop there, we want to win there. With everything that we’re doing, our eye has always been on that Lombardi [Trophy]. It starts with getting past this team. We just want to win.”
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.