The Colts-Ravens playoff game marked a victorious return for the Ravens' Ray Lewis. But the 24-9 win won't erase questions about whether the Ravens – or their quarterback – are elite.
In the end, the storylines were just about right.
Ray Lewis, playing in his final home game, started his exultant dance in the middle of the field even before the clock hit 00:00 in a 24-9 victory. He and his Baltimore Ravens will move on to play the Denver Broncos in Denver, extending his Hall of Fame career at least one more week.
Indianapolis Colt Andrew Luck, the first quarterback drafted No. 1 ever to start a playoff game in his rookie season, got to smell the sweat and feel the intensity of the playoffs. He will move on to Year 2 of what could become a Hall of Fame career – though, on this evidence, probably with a significantly different supporting cast.
But it was not football that will keep Peyton Manning and his Broncos up at night worrying.
It was a game in which each team wanted to prove that it was more than what it appeared to be.
The Ravens wanted to show that Joe Flacco was a top-tier quarterback, that they could dominate a team that had overachieved to make the playoffs, that they could get the old Ravens defensive swagger back. The Colts wanted to prove that they were more than a deeply flawed team that had made the playoffs by beating bad opponents with Luck's uncanny ability to make big plays at the biggest moments.
Instead, it was a game in which both teams played precisely to form.
The Colts' flaws were on full display. They could run the ball only sporadically, Luck looked like he was being chased by a pack of dingoes almost every time he dropped back to pass, the Ravens made big runs all day, and then they picked on cornerback Cassius Vaughn like a schoolyard bully in the second half.