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RAY LEWIS GOT TO TAKE A VICTORY LAP, AND THE RAVENS GOT TO LIVE ANOTHER WEEK. LEWIS'S INVIGORATING EFFECT ON A SPUTTERING RAVENS team led to a 24--9 win that ended Indy's seasonlong story of inspiration after the return of coach Chuck Pagano, who missed 12 games after receiving a diagnosis of leukemia in September. Playing at home for the last time of his 17-year career, the 37-year-old Lewis pumped up a Baltimore team that had lost four of its last five regular-season games. The defense swarmed Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, blitzing him repeatedly, sacking him three times and forcing him into 26 incompletions and a woeful 59.8 passer rating. Next up for Baltimore? An AFC divisional playoff with Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver, a team that lost just one game at home this season.
"I'm really looking forward to [the Broncos]" said receiver Anquan Boldin, who led Baltimore with five catches for a team-playoff record 145 yards, including a game-sealing, fourth-quarter, 18-yard touchdown grab. "I was hoping we would get to play them."
Against Indianapolis, the Ravens had touchdown drives of 80 and 70 yards in the second half, rolling up 251 yards of offense (after 188 in the first half) on only 28 plays. Quarterback Joe Flacco was just 7 of 11 in the second half, but those completions went for a whopping 174 of his overall 282 yards, good for an average gain of almost 25 yards per connection. Baltimore's 439 yards of total offense was a team playoff record, and seven Flacco completions went for at least 20 yards.
Defensively, the Ravens' pass rush seemed to confuse Luck for the entire game. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger led the blitz attack with 2½ sacks and five quarterback hits.
Afterward Lewis—whom Baltimore put in the game on offense as a fullback for the game's final play—took a Cal Ripkenesque turn of thanks around the edges of M&T Bank Stadium. Still, coach Jim Harbaugh knew it would take more than a rally cry from Lewis, who missed 10 games after a right triceps injury suffered in Week 6, to beat the Broncos.
"You can't play a 60-minute football game on emotion," Harbaugh said.
Playing with a brace on his injured triceps area, Lewis was limited in the game, but he did get credit for a team-best 13 tackles, with one tackle for a loss. He also dropped an easy interception.
"I've already turned [to] Denver film now," Lewis said afterward. "It's on to the next one. That's one thing about being in this business so long. I told them, 'We don't have a 24-hour rule now. We have a less-than-12-hour rule,' because we are back to work."