BALTIMORE – The Baltimore Ravens wanted one long final ride for Ray Lewis.
They also wanted Denver. They got it.
Having disposed of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, they now face a far more imposing challenge – Peyton Manning and the streaking Broncos.
Anquan Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown, in the Ravens’ 24-9 victory Sunday over the Colts in an AFC wild-card game. The win delays star linebacker Lewis’ retirement for at least another week as Baltimore (11-6) heads to top-seeded Denver (13-3) next Saturday.
The Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 three weeks ago.
“I wanted Denver,” Boldin said, “because they beat us.
“We’ll make it different.”
And he wanted the Broncos because it prolongs the Ravens’ pursuit of their first NFL title since the 2000 season, when Lewis won the first of two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Lewis, who made 13 tackles Sunday, ended his last home game in Baltimore at fullback, of all things, for the final kneel-down. He then went into a short version of his trademark dance before being mobbed by teammates.
He followed with a victory lap, his right arm, covered by a brace, held high in salute to the fans after playing for the first time since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14 against Dallas.
“My only focus was to come in and get my team a win. Nothing else was planned,” Lewis, 37, said. “I knew how it started but I never knew how it would end here in Baltimore. To go the way it did today, I wouldn’t change nothing.”
He would like nothing more than to change past results against Manning, who was 2-0 in the postseason against Baltimore while with the Colts.
“It’s on to the next one,” the 17-year veteran said. “We saw them earlier in the year and now we get them back again, but with all of our guns back.”
The loss ended the Colts’ turnaround season in which they went from 2-14 to the playoffs in coach Chuck Pagano’s first year in Indianapolis (11-6).
Baltimore’s suddenly revitalized defense never let standout rookie QB Luck get comfortable.
“It’s great making the playoffs, but you can’t make mistakes and expect to beat a playoff team like we did,” Luck said. “We’ll have to look back at those and hopefully fix them.”
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