The retirement clock on Interstate 93 outside Boston may have run out, but Ray Lewis’ retirement tour was extended Sunday night after he and the Ravens defeated the Patriots 28-13 at Gillette Stadium.
The victory couldn’t have been more perfect, as the Ravens made up for for last year’s shortcomings and finally overcame their woes in the AFC Championship Game, where they’ve lost twice in the past five years.
Lewis wasn’t remorseful or angry at the way last season ended. Instead, he justified the defeat as “part of God’s plan.” Sunday ended up vindicating that sentiment.
“That moment, that conversation with my team [last season], I was just telling them that God doesn’t make mistakes,” Lewis said during his postgame news conference. “He’s never made one mistake. In two weeks, somebody else will feel the way we felt last year. But we ran our course. Last year we ran our course.
“There was no way that he was going to bring us back here twice to feel the same feeling. He had a real plan for us the whole year.”
The plan wasn’t exactly clear all along, as the Ravens watched player after player suffer physically, mentally or emotionally this season, but Lewis and his teammates withstood throughout.
Terrell Suggs ruptured his Achilles in the offseason. Torrey Smith endured the tragic death of his younger brother. Lewis tore a triceps muscle, and Ed Reed continues to play with a partially torn labrum. There were plenty of other bumps, bruises and cuts along the way, but the Ravens endured and kept their focus on the ultimate goal.
So while the win over the Patriots exacted some revenge for Baltimore, it also proved Baltimore’s mettle and strength to persevere through adversity and achieve greatness.
Now, the Ravens have gone beyond last season’s final test and are sending Lewis, who remains on the cusp of his last ride, to his second Super Bowl.
“And for me to come out and say that this is my last ride and for me now to be headed back to the Super Bowl, for the possibility of me possibly winning a second ring, how else do you cap off a career?” Lewis said. “How else do you honor your fans and give them everything that they cheer for? The last ride, I can only tell you I’m along for the ride.”
Lewis’ final game was not inside the confines of Gillette Stadium, and he didn’t fall to the same fate that he and the Ravens were forced to endure last season. This time, they were the ones celebrating in the postgame locker room, and they were the ones presented with the Lamar Hunt Trophy. But that’s not how this fairytale is meant to end.
After one of the all-time great careers in NFL history, Lewis has the chance to do what few legends have done before. He can leave the game a champion and walk out the door for the final time with his lasting memory a picture of him hoisting that Lombardi Trophy. He’s done it once before, but this time would be far sweeter.
Lewis’ final act shouldn’t be riddled in sorrow and regret. Rather, it should be one to remember and cherish. So, in two weeks’ time, when Lewis is finally saddled up for his final game, he should be able to ride victorious into the sunset one last time.