Ravens great Ray Lewis talks about his thoughts while standing in the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium before his last home game. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
First of many
Oct. 13, 1996: Colts beat Ravens, 26-21
Jim Harbaugh nearly made his escape from the pocket when rookie middle linebacker Ray Lewis gripped his waist from behind and was, before long, standing over the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, walking off and wriggling his shoulders in celebration of his first career sack. Lewis is the only NFL player with at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions.
Kid means business
Sept. 14, 1997: Ravens beat Giants, 24-23
The New York Giants led by nine points early in the fourth quarter at home — but Lewis wore them down. In only the second season of his 17-year career, the linebacker made a career-high 25 tackles, setting a franchise record that still stands.
Though in defeat, Lewis had a legacy-shaping outing in the season opener against the St. Louis Rams. Then only 24 years old, he had 14 tackles, a sack and a 60-yard interception return. "Sometimes I wish I could just sit back and watch him. He's an exciting player to watch, " Ravens rookie cornerback Chris McAlister said.
Folding the baby
Nov. 12, 2000: Ravens beat Titans, 24-23
Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George might still wake up with Lewis nightmares. The two met too many times for George’s liking, but one hit that stood out came in the Ravens’ first Super Bowl season, when Lewis smacked down George with such ferocity that McAlister said George “folded up like a baby.”
Jan. 7, 2001: Ravens beat Titans, 24-10
While George might consider Lewis a friend off the field, on the field is a different story. During the AFC divisional playoffs, George bobbled a pass from Steve McNair, only to have the ball stolen by Lewis. Lewis brushed off Tennessee players to carry the interception 50 yards for his first career touchdown and secure the Ravens’ ticket to the next round.
Jan. 28, 2001: Ravens beat Giants, 34-7
Lewis made three solo tackles, assisted on two tackles and defended four passes to earn Most Valuable Player honors in the Ravens’ first Super Bowl win. "There is no feeling like this right now, " Lewis said at the time. "If I could express it, it wouldn't be a true feeling. My body is tingling right now."
Crashing ‘The Bus’
Nov. 4, 2001: Ravens beat Steelers, 13-10
Few could easily stop Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, aka “The Bus,” a Hall of Famer who rushed for 13,662 yards in his career. But as Bettis drove up the field after a pass from Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, Lewis collided with the 255-pound Hall of Famer from the left and totaled him.
Rashard Mendenhall was having the best game of his rookie season with the Steelers, but that all crashed to a halt when Lewis pummeled the running back so hard that it fractured Mendenhall’s shoulder. “The doctors even said it was not a familiar injury in football, but something they usually see in car accidents,” Mendenhall later told Sports Illustrated.
Sept. 20, 2009: Ravens beat Chargers, 31-26
Shooting an inside gap on fourth-and-2, Lewis wrapped his arms around running back Darren Sproles in the backfield at the Ravens’ 20-yard line with 30 seconds left, securing the win. At the time, Lewis said it was “probably one of the greatest plays of my career because of what we did as a team.”
With the Ravens up 14-0 in the AFC wild-card game, Lewis blitzed through the New England Patriots pocket and forced quarterback Tom Brady to the grass for Lewis’ only career sack against the longtime star.