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Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens not perfect but advance

Ray Lewis' Hall of Fame career will last at least another week. On Sunday, he gave the home crowd in Baltimore one final performance to remember.

Lewis recorded a team-leading 13 tackles in the Ravens' impressive 24-9 wild-card victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Ravens will face the host Denver Broncos next Saturday in the divisional round.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay will re-air the Baltimore Ravens' 24-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts from Wild Card Weekend on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. ET.

As the game ended, Lewis was inserted on offense for the Ravens' kneel-down play. He did his famous pregame dance on the field as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Lewis' performance was typical of a strong day for the Ravens' veterans.

"There's no great reward than for me to take this last victory lap for me to see my team," Lewis told CBS after the game. "Because we have a vision. We're not trying to end here. This is just my last game at (the) Ravens' stadium, and it's the most awesome thing you could ever ask for in any professional career."

This looked like a team capable of turning it on in the playoffs. Anquan Boldin put up 145 yards and one touchdown on just five catches, repeatedly beating Cassius Vaughn (and later Darius Butler) in single coverage. Quarterback Joe Flacco, always capable of making big throws down the field, gained 282 yards through the air on just 12 completions.

This is not the 2000 Ravens defense. They gave up over 400 yards to the Colts and a number of long drives. But defensive coordinator Dean Pees has become more aggressive late in the season with his blitz packages, and it has worked. The Ravens knocked down Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck 10 times in the game, getting pressure from Paul Kruger and Terrell Suggs. The secondary knocked down a lot of Luck passes, especially in the red zone. The defense overcame two Ray Rice fumbles.

The Ravens' season bottomed out with a 34-17 home loss to the Broncos in Week 15. Since then, the Ravens have responded with a 34-0 shellacking of the New York Giants and this performance. (The Ravens lost in Week 17 to the Cincinnati Bengals while playing their backups.) We're not going to say the Ravens are "back," but they have played their brand of football in the two key wins.

Flacco never will be as precise as Peyton Manning, but the Ravens can win when he's hitting big plays. Rice and talented backup Bernard Pierce make a dangerous running back tandem. The defense is healthier and playing better.

This Ravens team should be a big underdog next weekend, but it truly has earned a spot among the final eight teams. The Ravens have won a playoff game in five consecutive seasons. They have enough veteran talent to give the Broncos problems.

Lewis and the organization he has carried for so long aren't done yet.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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