Over the last month, two major shake ups have hit the Baltimore Ravens. Both have the ability to kick start them into Super Bowl XLVII, as the Ravens begins their playoff quest Saturday afternoon at home against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
One change was the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and the promotion of Jim Caldwell. The second was future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis’s retirement announcement Wednesday.
The 17-year veteran told the media that he will end his career, knowing the time was right.
''Everything that starts has an end,'' Lewis said. ''For me, today, I told my team that this will be my last ride.''
Since he entered the league out of Miami in 1996, Baltimore embraced Lewis, and he became the heart and soul of the defense and the face of the franchise. Thirteen Pro Bowls, seven AP First Team All-Pro selections, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, and one Super Bowl victory later, and Lewis has enjoyed a prestigious reputation for being leader and winner in the NFL.
Lewis is currently listed as "questionable" for Saturday's game but was a full participant in practice Wednesday. It could be his first game back since tearing his triceps muscle in Week Six against the Dallas Cowboys.
An emotional punch to the gut may be just what the Ravens need after losing four of their final five games to close the regular season.
Baltimore let Cameron go after its Week 14 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, and have averaged just 16 points per game since. However, two of those games were against teams in the Top 10 in total defense, playoff-bound Denver and Cincinnati, and the other was against the ousted former champion New York Giants.
The Ravens now have a very similar matchup against a suspect Indianapolis defense. Despite winning five of their last six contests, the Colts let up 24.2 points and 374.3 yards per game this season. And the Colts finished 29th against the run.
One reason Cameron was let go was due to a lack of touches for running back Ray Rice. The three-time Pro Bowler's carries were down to 257 this year, a far cry from a player who had 307 carries in 2010, and led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage on 291 attempts last season. In one year, the Ravens regressed from eighth in rush attempts to 12th.
Under Caldwell, the Ravens should continue to run the ball more. Rice had 24 carries versus the Giants, and rushed for 107 yards, while Bernard Pierce had 14 more carries for 123 yards. Against Denver, Baltimore was down 31-3 after three quarters, which forced more pass attempts.
Couple an inspired Ravens defense with an offense matched up against a weaker Colts frontline, and the Ravens should have a strong chance to extend their postseason.