When the Ravens mishandled the ensuing kickoff, Lander-Portnoy and his friends decided they better switch venues to shake up the afternoon's mojo.

Seconds after they ducked into Cross Street Market, Flacco lofted a pretty 59-yard scoring pass to Smith. Tie game.

"I'm never going to Mother's again!" Lander-Portnoy shouted in ecstasy. The Ravens quickly added another touchdown when Graham returned a tipped Manning pass 39 yards to cap an incredible opening five minutes.

Asked if the eventual fate of the game would ride on his choice of bars, Lander-Portnoy, a Federal Hill resident, just laughed. "I feel there is a superstitious atmosphere that's part of this crew," he said, gesturing to his friends. "It's only crazy if it doesn't work."

Almost every bar in Federal Hill was jammed body-to-body with patrons attired in Ravens jerseys. Lewis' No. 52 was the most popular, with fans hoping against hope to cheer the great linebacker to one more victory.

They knew it was an uphill battle. The Broncos spanked the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore just a month ago, and with 11 straight victories, they hadn't lost to another team since early October. To make matters worse, the Broncos, aided by Denver's mile-high altitude, carry one of the great home field auras in the sport. And Manning had only lost twice in 11 career match-ups with the Ravens.

"We definitely have to overcome the odds," said Dan Schafer, who traveled from York, Pa., with his wife Julie to watch the game at Mother's. "But that just means that if we do this, the town's going to be crazy."

The Schafers wore matching Lewis jerseys, his purple and hers black atop purple jeans.

"It's heartbreaking," said Dan Schafer of Lewis' impending retirement. "He's been the soul of this city."

"His leadership has been phenomenal," added Julie Schafer.

Like most Ravens fans, the Schafers don't care that Lewis is a divisive figure nationally, stemming from the murder charges he faced in connection to a double stabbing in Atlanta in 2000. The charges were dropped when Lewis pleaded to a misdemeanor obstruction charge and agreed to testify against his co-defendants. But in the wake of his retirement announcement, many columnists wrote about the difficulty of reconciling Lewis' brilliance as a player with the Atlanta incident.

Dan Schafer was having none of it Saturday. "If you love a place and you love everything about it, then you're going to back someone like Ray 100 percent," he said. "It's like a family. That's what I love about Baltimore."

As Schafer talked, a helicopter with Lewis' No. 52 painted on its belly, circled above the patio at Mother's. Fans lifted their beers to the sky in salute.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporters Steve Kilar and Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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