It took Ray Lewis a long time to put his suit on after the AFC championship was over on Sunday. He got dressed in silence, he made sure his tie was straight and his jacket wasn't wrinkled. Then, he stood in the eye of a small media storm, smiled into the cameras, and put to bed questions about his future.
"Is this my last game as a Raven? Absolutely not," Lewis said. "Let me answer that question before somebody asks it."
Lewis wanted to quash any talk of retirement right away, especially since the topic has been a popular one in recent weeks and months. The 16th year of his NFL career hasn't been a particularly smooth ride. He missed four games in the middle of the season with a toe injury, and had to answer questions locally and nationally about whether he'd lost a step and needed to come out of the game on passing plays. But Lewis played pretty good football in the stretch run, including a 12-tackle performance against the Patriots. He said he still loves the game too much to walk away, and then said he believed it wasn't in God's plans for the Ravens to win this year.
"God has never made a mistake. Ever," Lewis said. "Somebody is going to feel like this tomorrow, and somebody is going to feel like this in two weeks in the Super Bowl. And whomever wins it, that's their year. That's a fact, and there ain't nothing nobody else can do about it. That's the irony of sports. There is a winner, there's a loser, and when you lose, you've got to suck it up like a man and say 'You know what Father? If it's your will, so be it. As a man you got to keep moving, and a team keep building, remembering this taste."
Lewis isn't the only player who has been dogged by retirement speculation. Ed Reed and Matt Birk have both had to deal with rumors they're close to hanging up their cleats. Reed didn't answer questions from the media after the game. Instead, he strolled around the locker room singing the Teddy Pendergrass song "Love TKO." But Birk said he's going to talk things over with his family before he makes a decision.
"We'll see, we'll see," Birk said. "This will sting a little bit. Just take time, get away for a while, and then make that decision with my family."
Patriots TEs as advertised
The Ravens got an up-close-and-personal look at the Patriots' tight-end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and came away impressed.
Gronkowski led the offense in receiving yards with 87, and Hernandez led the team in receptions with seven. While giving them credit, strong safety Bernard Pollard said the defense could have been stingier against them.
"I just think we've just got to play sounder defense," said Pollard, who tied inside linebacker Ray Lewis for the team lead in tackles with 12. "They're great players. Obviously, they are. They've accomplished so much in two years. But I think if we play our defense, we play sound, we play right, we play [well]. I thought our defense did a good job for the most part. We held them to a lot of field goals."
Dickson laments dropped pass
Ed Dickson caught two passes for 23 yards — including a 16-yarder in the fourth quarter — but the tight end also had his share of miscues.
Two plays after that 16-yard grab, Dickson jumped early, incurring a five-yard penalty that contributed to the offense whiffing on a fourth down-and-6 conversion at New England's 33-yard line. Dickson also dropped a pass on third-and-3 from the Ravens' 49 that forced the team to punt with 1:06 left before halftime and trailing the Patriots, 13-10.
"That was a critical third down. I kind of kicked myself for that," Dickson said of the dropped pass. "It was a low ball, I had it in my body, the guy tackled me, and then I couldn't hang onto it. … I didn't fight for that."
Oher played through injury
Michael Oher was limping badly in the locker room after the game, a result of a New England player rolling onto his right ankle in the first quarter.
But the right tackle also revealed that he had slightly torn the meniscus in his right knee in last Sunday's 20-13 win against the Houston Texans in the AFC divisional round.
"Feeling it now. I don't know how I made it through," Oher said. "I tore my meniscus last week against Houston in the second quarter. But I made it through."
Oher, who said he was determined to return to the game against the Patriots, said he would not need to undergo surgery on his knee. "It's just a slight tear," he said. "Everything's good."
Inactives for both teams
The Ravens deactivated linebackers Sergio Kindle and Josh Bynes, nose tackle Brandon McKinney, rookie cornerback Chykie Brown, rookie running back Anthony Allen, rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss and rookie guard Justin Boren.
The Patriots elected to scratch right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who was questionable with back and foot injuries. Vollmer is listed as the starter, but rookie Nate Solder had started the past six games and filled in at right tackle again.
New England also deactivated running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, linebacker Gary Guyton, offensive lineman Donald Thomas and rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett.
The Ravens lost for the first time this season when holding the lead after the third quarter. The team had been 9-0 with a fourth-quarter advantage. … Center Matt Birk was named one of three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. He is competing with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman for the award. Birk was a finalist for the Minnesota Vikings in 2008. … Linebackers Ray Lewis, Jarret Johnson and Brendon Ayanbadejo, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, running back Ray Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and punter Sam Koch represented the Ravens for the coin toss.