FOXBOROUGH — The ride continues for Ravens icon Ray Lewis, who has a chance to end his 17-year career with a second Super Bowl ring a dozen years after he won his first one.
“Honestly, I just said that God doesn’t make mistakes, man,” Lewis said after giving his teammates a victory speech. “There was no way that he was going to bring us back here twice to feel the same feeling. He had a plan for us the whole year.”
Lewis’s teammates, who’ve been on a mission to send him out a champion, were delighted to have helped him get to the threshhold.
“The cool thing about Ray is that he’s excited about getting back there and having the opportunity to win another one for himself,” said quarterback Joe Flacco. “But he’s more excited because he’s felt it and wants all of us to feel it and he knows what it feels like.”
It was golden
That purple-clad superfan standing outside the Baltimore locker room and clutching a Maryland state flag was Olympic swimming immortal Michael Phelps, who likely was more jubilant about his hometown team winning than he was about setting the gold-medal record in London last summer.
“I’m literally on Cloud Nine,” exulted Phelps, who’s a Ravens season ticket-holder and a good friend of Lewis, who has been a trusted confidant.
“He’s so passionate about what he does,” said Phelps, who’s headed to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. “He’s someone who helped me put a lot of things in perspective in the last four years. There’s no better way to end your career than going for another ring.”
Among the locker room celebrants was honorary game captain O.J. Brigance, a linebacker on the Ravens’ first Super Bowl team who has been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and is now the club’s senior adviser to player development and inspirational motivator.
“O.J. Brigance is the strongest man in the building,” said coach John Harbaugh. “He sets the tone for all of us.”
A win for Harvard
Finally headed to the Super Bowl after 15 years with the Vikings and Ravens is Harvard grad and center Matt Birk, who anchors the offensive line.
“It’s great to experience it with this group of men,” said Birk. “Is it about the destination or is it about the journey? I wouldn’t feel any differently about them if we hadn’t won this game but we did and I’m glad we had this moment.”
With rookie Bernard Pierce shrugging off a bruised right knee that had him listed as questionable on the injury report, Baltimore again had its 1-2 punch at running back with Pierce and Ray Rice combining for a 100-yard outing. Pierce, who was banged up in the process of gaining 103 yards against the Colts, was limited to 14 on five carries by the Broncos. He had 52 yards on nine carries against the Patriots plus a catch for 8 more. Rice gained 48 on 19 carries including the 2-yard TD that put the Ravens ahead in the second quarter. That was the sixth in his playoff career, half of them coming against the Patriots.
The Ravens’ decision to defer after winning the toss — the Patriots’ perennial call — ended up a wash. Their defense stopped New England on its 42 on the hosts’ first possession, but their offense had to punt from midfield to begin the second half . . . As always, Baltimore fans hollered the letter “O” during the “O, say does . . .” segment of the national anthem, which was written by Maryland native Francis Scott Key after the “Battle of Baltimore” in 1812. While the tradition was started decades ago by Orioles fans, the Ravens supporters use it as well. “You can always tell during the national anthem when you hear the ‘O’ how many people from Baltimore made it up and today’s was pretty strong, actually,” said Flacco. “So, yeah, it was pretty cool and pretty impressive how those guys made it up here.”