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Lewis ends NFL career in championship fashion

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Lewis ends NFL career in championship fashion

NEW ORLEANS (AP) So, Ray Lewis, now that you've won a Super Bowl, what's next?

No, he's not going to that amusement park. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker is heading into retirement - and he can't wait.

``Now I get to see a different side of life,'' Lewis said Sunday night after helping the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31. ``My family, and my sons, my kids, they've sacrificed for me. Now I have the opportunity to sacrifice for them.''

Lewis ended his 17-year NFL career in perfect fashion, directing a successful goal-line stand that provided him a world championship to take into retirement. After the 49ers failed to score on three straight plays from the Baltimore 5-yard line in the closing minutes, the Ravens could begin celebrating their first Super Bowl title in 12 years.

``How else can you finish that off but with a goal-line stand?'' Lewis said. ``That is championship football.''

The 13-time Pro Bowl star began his final night on the football field with a motivational speech to his teammates. He ended it looking upward into a waterfall of silver streamers and purple confetti. And minutes later, he put his hands on the Lombardi Trophy.

``What we did as a team today was the ultimate,'' Lewis said.

As an individual, Lewis made seven tackles. Nothing special, really. He had 44 in Baltimore's previous three playoff games. But the Ravens played like champions behind Lewis, and as usual, they drew inspiration from him.

``There will never be another leader like him and we sent him out like his brothers,'' Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs. ``His legacy will go untainted.''

The last time Lewis played in a Super Bowl, he was voted MVP of Baltimore's 34-7 rout of the New York Giants. This time, Joe Flacco was the MVP because the Ravens' offense outplayed the team's usually reliable defense.

Ever since Lewis announced on Jan. 2 that this would be his ``last ride,'' the Ravens have talked about providing him a title to take into retirement. And so they did.

``It's pretty cool,'' Flacco said. ``Ray's a great person and everyone knows he's an unbelievable player, but he's the best teammate. It's unbelievable to send him out like this.''

What a journey it was.

After defeating Indianapolis at home to open the playoffs, the Ravens beat top-seeded Denver on the road and knocked off second-seeded New England. Then, underdogs again in the Super Bowl, Baltimore blew most of a 22-point lead in the second half before mounting one final defensive stop.

``To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I've ever been a part of in my career,'' Lewis said. ``What better way to do it than on the Super Bowl stage?''

Lewis' old buddy, 34-year-old Ed Reed, contributed a first-half interception. Jacoby Jones scored two touchdowns, and after the second - a 108-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter - he saluted his retiring teammate with a rendition of the ``squirrel'' dance Lewis made famous.

Days earlier, Lewis was confronted about his use of deer antler spray in his effort to return from the triceps injury. He vehemently denied trying the banned substance, and that sideshow fizzled out quickly enough so that it was not a distraction Sunday.

The Ravens will have another middle linebacker next season, but they will never have another Ray Lewis. Coach John Harbaugh was asked why the team responded so passionately to him and his effort to go out on top.

``If you're going to talk about the Ray thing, you want to ask about it, then the answer's got to be faith,'' Harbaugh said. ``I mean Ray is driven by spirituality and faith and that's what he draws on and that's where his strength comes from. So if you really want to know, I mean that's what he's tapping into and that's what makes it so beautiful and so perfect.''

Lewis was the second draft pick in Ravens' history, following Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Ogden, who was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame on Saturday, waved to his former teammate during the pregame coin flip Sunday.

Perhaps one day, Ogden will extend the same greeting to Lewis in Canton, Ohio.

For now, however, Lewis is looking to joining his family for some quiet time.

``No other way to go out and end a career. This is how you do it,'' Lewis said. ``Everything around me is my kids. Daddy gets to come home now. They aren't going to like me being at home all the time.''

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Rookie LG Lewis in concussion protocol after injury during Jaguars game

Rookie LG Lewis in concussion protocol after injury during Jaguars game

OWINGS MILLS – Three takeaways from Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s press conference Monday:

1. Starting left guard Alex Lewis is in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Lewis did not finish Sunday’s 19-17 win over the Jaguars, with Ryan Jensen taking over in the fourth quarter. Lewis’ condition will be evaluated during the week.

“I thought he (Jensen) played well,” Harbaugh said. “He always gives you a spark man. He’s physical.  That’s one of the things that we feel really good about. We’ve got some depth in our interior offensive line.”

2. Harbaugh is not worried about critics who aren’t sold on the Ravens’ 3-0 start.

Only five teams in the NFL are 3-0, and the Ravens are one of them. Yet the combined won-loss record of the Ravens’ three opponents so far is 1-8.

Are the Ravens a good team, or simply a product of playing poor competition?

“That’s a fair question, but I think it’s a better question for prognosticators, writers and media,” Harbaugh said. “And it’s cool. It’s good to have that question. It doesn’t matter to us. We don’t have to evaluate ourselves. We just have to get ready to play games.”

3. Harbaugh was fine with the trash-talking after the game between Ravens’ wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

“I was actually in the middle of that at one point,” Harbaugh said. “I got caught in the middle of that. It was kind of fun. I thought Steve Smith had a heck of a game. If that’s how he responds to whatever challenge is put before him out there, I’m for having that happen every week. I thought he responded quite well. I think he had eight catches.”   

RELATED: Evaluating Ravens' offense vs. Jags

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Ravens vs. Jaguars Week 3 report card: Defense/special teams

Ravens vs. Jaguars Week 3 report card: Defense/special teams

We've already handed out report cards to the offense after the Ravens' 19-17 win at Jacksonville on Sunday. Now it's time to grade the defense and special teams, which are the driving forces behind the third 3-0 start in franchise history:

DEFENSIVE LINE: A

The Ravens stuffed the Jaguars ground game. Chris Ivory's return was supposed to boost the Jags, but the Ravens held him to 14 yards on 12 carries. Overall, the Jaguars rushed 21 times for 48 yards. The Ravens also once again got interior pass rush pressure. Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy both had sacks, and Jernigan tipped two passes, one of which was intercepted by Tavon Young. Jernigan continues to play the best ball of his career. Brandon Williams finished with four tackles, and undrafted rookie Michael Pierce continues to contribute.

LINEBACKER: A-

The Ravens linebackers made an impact against the run and also against the pass, both with pressure and in coverage. Terrell Suggs, who had been quiet for 2 1/2 games, recorded a pair of fourth-quarter sacks. C.J. Mosley had an acrobatic one-handed interception, and Zach Orr picked off the Jaguars last pass after it was tipped by Lardarius Webb. Coverage by the linebackers was a major issue last season but has been much improved. Orr had  a team-high eight tackles. Second-round rookie Kamalei Correa saw his first defensive snaps of the season and showed well but dropped what might have been a pick-six interception.

SECONDARY: B

Eric Weddle was fully involved, with four tackles, two pass breakups and a few blitzes. Tavon Young recorded his first interception and Lardarius Webb tipped a pass that was picked off by Zach Orr.  Shareece Wright had some issues for the second straight week. He was beaten twice by Allen Robinson for touchdowns, and expect teams to continue to go after him with Jimmy Smith on the other side.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C

The special teams unit produced two of the biggest plays of the game -- Justin Tucker's 54-yard field goal that proved to be the game-winner, and Brent Urban's blocked field goal that set up the Ravens game-winning drive. But before that, the usually solid special teams had been a mess. Devin Hester, brought in mainly for his dependable ball security, fumbled away a punt return. Back-to-back penalties on Morgan Cox essentially cost the Ravens more than 25 yards on one punt sequence. The Ravens gave up a 42-yard punt return that set up the Jaguars' first touchdown. This group made the big plays at the end but is usually much better overall.

MORE RAVENS: OFFENSIVE REPORT CARD