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4. Let's give Ray Lewis a mulligan for some of those missed tackles. He's owed one. Because the alternative is kind of depressing.
It's not easy to miss four weeks of action, then jump right back into the fire and play your best football. Watching Lewis on Sunday, I felt like his timing was a little bit off. He was around a lot of plays, but he wasn't really a factor, even though he was credited with 10 tackles. And he had a few embarrassing misses, the kind of plays that make you cringe if you've watched him play Batman for 15 years. I imagine the spin move Mike Tolbert put on Lewis to break free for a first down in the second half was not fun for Ravens fans to watch.
However, anyone who suggests that the Ravens defense was somehow better off when Lewis was out of the line-up is kidding themselves. You will probably hear someone float that theory this week, and when they do, you have my permission to call them a knucklehead. Playing against Alex Smith, Colt McCoy and Dan Orlovsky is not the same as playing against Philip Rivers. The Ravens would have been torched by the Chargers even if they had a 25-year-old Ray Lewis in the game. Rivers was hitting receivers in stride as they ran through the secondary. It was like target practice for him.
A few missed tackles in a big game, though, can't help but remind you of Lewis' mortality. I've been critical of Jameel McClain in this column and on our weekly game day chats for the two years, so let me point out that I think he's played much better this season than he did the previous two years. But he's still not a dynamic player. He's a complimentary player. And you need complimentary players, but you use them to surround your dynamic players.
When I watch Ray Anthony Lewis these days, I wonder how close I am to witnessing the end. Not because I want to see it come, but because it inevitably will arrive, and when it does, I fear I won't fully appreciated the journey. It's hard to take my eyes off him, even though he's not what he used to be, because I don't want to miss the man's final thunderous charge -- whenever that is -- before Father Time snatches him away.
December 18, 2011