It should hardly have come as a surprise should it? The Ravens, down and out, oxygen deprived and all but done for the year at Mile High Stadium in Denver, managed to pull-off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history in Double-Overtime to prolong the career of Hall of Fame certainty Ray Lewis. For one more week at least. Ray Lewis is the Baltimore Ravens. He epitomises everything that is good about the franchise. He is a role model and an inspiration, not just to the rookies he takes under his wing, but to the Seasoned Veterans that Lewis has guided throughout his 17 year tenure as the team's cornerstone and Leader. When he announced that this would be his last season in the NFL shortly before the Playoffs began, people were quick in delivering Lewis' eulogy of a great NFL career as if it was already over. We should have known better. The Ravens have used Lewis' announcement as extra motivation during this incredible playoff run. The man who has given them everything deserves to go out on a high. As always Lewis is leading by example, he has been the teams leading tackler in both playoff games. This is even more remarkable considering he has missed most of the second half of the season with a torn bicep. He was everywhere against the Broncos, flying round the field like a rookie on a non-guaranteed one-year deal. The intensity we've come to expect is was there in spades, motivating his players on the field and on the sideline. Lewis is infectious and he demands the same dedication and commitment from every single player on the roster that he portrays. Still, even this looked like a long shot. After three close quarters the Broncos looked to have pulled away in the fourth. With a third and 3 and 30 seconds to go, Joe Flacco came up with a play that will go down in the annals of NFL history. A 70-yard rocket that flew over the Corner and Safety and into the arms of Jacoby Jones for a game-tying Touchdown. Even the Ravens on the sideline as the erupted in joy, couldn't have expected that. Lewis was motionless, head down in prayer on the bench. He knew that this wasn't over, that there was more work to be done. With two timeouts and 30 seconds left on the clock Manning made the incredible decision to take a knee and send it to overtime. His confidence was perhaps shaky from his poor decision to throw across the field which was intercepted and gave the Ravens a chance to tie. His decision to take it to Overtime would prove costly. Not without a struggle however. Overtime was a war of attrition for both teams, chances were few and far between. Players were gasping for air in the place which is notorious for having precious little. Mile-High Stadium is exactly that, a mile above sea level and for those who don't play there frequently it becomes a struggle. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark cannot play there at all due to the thin air and the risk of blood clots, such is the lack of Oxygen Mile-High provides. Lewis was pacing up and down the sideline like a madman, encouraging, motivating, leading. Still covering every inch of ground from sideline-to-sideline as he willed his team on. The finest Middle Linebacker to ever play the game had no intention of surrendering now and he wasn't going to let his team do so either. All it was going to take was one last monumental effort and they would be playing for the AFC championship for the second straight year. The defence was keeping Manning and company at bay, albeit barely. As we went to double-overtime, finally a chance for the Ravens. A 47-yard field goal to win it. Rookie Justin Tucker had been in staggering form throughout the year but as we have seen many times before, the playoff pressure can be too much for some. Tucker showed great composure and drilled it between the uprights and the Ravens had done the impossible and beaten the 9.5 point favourite Broncos on their home field. Incredible scenes followed, players celebrating on the field, emotions in overdrive. Ray Lewis fell to his knees, realising the achievement and the effort it had taken to get this done. Then, once more he took to one knee in prayer before joining his team in rejoicing. Lewis is a man of faith, his past misdemeanours have resulted in this. For those who are unaware or those who have forgotten Ray Lewis narrowly avoided a lengthy prison term in 2000 when he was involved in a Murder case where Lewis' testified against the two other defendants in order for the charges to be lowered to obstructing justice. He received probation for this when many believed he was more involved than that and he used his notoriety as a tool in his plea bargain. He has taken full advantage of this, changing his entire mindset and becoming the sort of person the Ravens had envisaged when they drafted him 26th overall in the 1996 Draft. Everyone deserves a second chance, and whilst this incident will forever taint his legacy, all the good he has done in and out of the game should outweigh one mistake when people look back at his career. So what now for Lewis and the Ravens? Well, something all too familiar. A visit to the New England Patriots for the second straight year. Last year was a missed opportunity for the Ravens, who lost the game 23-20 when the unfortunate Billy Cundiff missed a field goal in the last seconds that could have taken it to overtime. This is a game of inches. This year should be equally as daunting. Tom Brady and the Patriots have been in terrific form of late, culminating in the 41-20 demolition of the Houston Texans last week. Even without Rob Gronkowski their offense is frightening, Brady is a surgeon on the field and his chemistry with Wes Welker has returned and has paid dividends on more than one occasion. The Ravens defence must start well and limit the Patriots early on if they are to have any chance of defeating them. They will be massive under-dogs with the Vegas oddsmakers once more. Is this one challenge too many? Not if Ray Lewis has his way. One thing is for sure, if this is to be his last game in the NFL. He will leave nothing behind. Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_
April 08 2014 10:05 AM EPL NEWS: FIVE FINALS TO GLORY - WILL LIVERPOOL WIN THE TITLE?
April 08 2014 9:46 AM EPL NEWS: FIVE FINALS TO GLORY - WILL LIVERPOOL WIN THE TITLE?
April 08 2014 9:41 AM EPL NEWS: FIVE FINALS TO GLORY - WILL LIVERPOOL WIN THE TITLE?