The Ravens came awfully close to reaching the Super Bowl in 2011, but in the end, a few crucial mistakes cost them a trip to the big game. This postseason, they’ll have some extra motivation that could get them over the hump, though.
Ray Lewis on Wednesday announced his plan to retire from the NFL, and the decision to get the news out now was certainly not intended to distract his team, but rather to serve as inspiration — something he’s already learned to master.
The Ravens have made seven trips to the playoffs and two trips to the AFC Championship Game since their Super Bowl victory back in 2000, yet even with rosters chock-full of talent, they haven’t returned to the big game. Lewis’ decision could be just the sort of motivation this Baltimore team needs to get to New Orleans and send its leader out on top.
Before Lewis went down with a torn triceps muscle on Oct. 14, forcing him to miss the final 10 games of the season, the Ravens were an impressive 5-1 and near the top of the standings in the AFC. Without Lewis on the field, though, Baltimore went just 5-5 down the stretch and barely eked out the AFC North division crown.
Now that Lewis is back in the fold alongside 2011′s NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, the Ravens are finally healthy and should be ready to compete for a championship. Lewis doesn’t just make everyone around him on defense better, but he also has an impact on the offensive players through his motivational words and actions, both on and off the field.
Lewis has been a pillar of the Ravens franchise since its move from Cleveland back in 1996. His retirement marks the end of an era in Baltimore and in franchise history, but he’s at least given his teammates a little added motivation to work a little harder, play a little stronger and find that extra drive deep inside to get the job done.
The Ravens still have flaws, just like every other team left in the NFL playoff picture, but they also have the added element of extra inspiration behind them. The Colts have a similar sentiment with head coach Chuck Pagano‘s return from leukemia, and both teams should be considered dangerous because of that extra component.
Football is truly a game built on momentum, and Lewis’ retirement could provide all the momentum the Ravens need to return to the Super Bowl — and who knows, maybe even win it.