It was an extremely costly victory for the Ravens, with team officials concerned Sunday night that middle linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb had suffered potentially season-ending injuries against the Dallas Cowboys.
Although magnetic resonance imaging exams will be conducted Monday, there was immediate fear that Lewis tore his right triceps and that Webb tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, according to multiple sources.
Sources cautioned, though, that nothing is concrete on Lewis or Webb until more extensive examinations are performed.
Neither player was able to finish the Ravens' 31-29 victory over the Cowboys at M&T Bank Stadium as Webb got hurt in the first quarter and Lewis was injured late in the fourth quarter.
"Lardarius Webb does not look good right now," Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a potential ACL. We've got a problem there. We don't know for sure, but that's what it looks like right now."
Although Harbaugh downplayed Lewis' injury, saying, "I don't think it's really bad," and adding, "He had a triceps issue, but I don't know how serious," the team was worried afterward that the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was seriously hurt.
"Nothing definitive," a source with knowledge of the situation said Sunday night. "He responded well to treatment tonight, however. We'll know tomorrow. It's wait and see for now."
If Lewis is sidelined or out for the remainder of the season, the Ravens would likely move starting linebacker Jameel McClain to middle linebacker or top backup Dannell Ellerbe to the 13-time Pro Bowl selection's spot.
Lewis has drawn criticism recently for his declining range and ability to shed blocks, but leads the team with 57 tackles and is the Ravens' emotional leader. But at age 37, would a season-ending injury to Lewis be a potential career-ending injury?
Before the injury, Lewis recorded a game-high 14 tackles but the Cowboys' running backs ran roughshod over a traditionally stingy defense that allowed 227 rushing yards, a franchise record. The previous record was 222 yards surrendered to the Denver Broncos during the Ravens' inaugural season in 1996.
The Ravens are playing without outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who's on the physically unable to perform list with a partially torn right Achilles tendon. Suggs is expected to return at some point this season. A source with knowledge of the situation said he would return sometime in November.
When he got hurt in the first quarter, Webb immediately grabbed his left knee and was in obvious pain. Trainers helped him off the field to the locker room and he was barely able to put any weight on his leg.
"You hate to see a guy go down like that because he's worked his tail off," strong safety Bernard Pollard said. "That guy is an animal. He loves to work, he loves his team. Our prayers are with him to get a speedy recovery, but the next man has to step up."
The Ravens inserted Corey Graham as the nickel back with Jimmy Smith taking Webb's place opposite starter Cary Williams.
Williams intercepted his third pass in the past three games, but
the defense will be hard-pressed to duplicate Webb's tackling ability, cover skills and ability to shut down opponents' top wide receivers.
"It's unfortunate," Williams said. "Webbie is more than just a teammate and a friend. He's like my brother. My heart goes out to him. I pray for him that he has a speedy recovery."
Special-teams contributor Chykie Brown had to go in at the end of the game at cornerback because Smith injured his groin and was unable to continue.
Webb intercepted eight passes last season, including three in the playoffs. This season, Webb had 25 tackles, one interception, six pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
"It's going to hurt the team a lot," Brown said of Webb's injury. "That's a chance for somebody else to step up and keep the flow going. Webb is a playmaker, a great player. He means a lot to the defense. We're going to miss him."
Webb tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee as a rookie and had it surgically repaired by Dr. James Andrews.
Webb was signed to a $50 million contract extension last spring and is indisputably the Ravens' top cornerback.
"It's terrible to see your friend and teammate go down like that, especially with the type of injury he had already had to overcome in his career," said Smith, a first-round draft pick last year from Colorado. "It's a big loss. Our hearts go out to him, but, at the same time, it's next man up as always.
"I'm ready. I've been waiting my turn and I've just got to go out there and keep making plays."