It was a back and forth game between two hungry teams on Sunday, as the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys traded blows for the entire 60 minutes of football. Both teams had positives to build off of and also areas that need big improvements. After the dust settled, it was the Ravens who escaped with a 31-29 victory.
However, the cost of the victory came at an extremely high price for the Ravens, as two defensive stalwarts were lost for the season. Cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his ACL after bumping knees with Dez Bryant in the first half. Then in the fourth quarter, the Ravens’ lost their defensive heart and soul as Ray Lewis tore his triceps when he awkwardly tackled Cowboys’ running back Phillip Tanner.
Lewis’ 57 tackles far and away lead the team, as his total is nearly double more than everyone besides safety Bernard Pollard. Throw in Webb’s 25 tackles, and the Ravens lost nearly 20 percent of their total tackles made this season. Cornerback Jimmy Smith and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe will fill in respectively.
Lewis of course is the vocal leader of a franchise that has been known for defense. He is one of the most respected defensive players of his era and his loss will be felt as much off the field as a leader as it will be on the field. He passionately gets his team jacked up before every game and the 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker’s leadership is legendary. His 227 starts are the most by any active defensive player.
Unfortunately, Lewis is no spring chicken anymore. There was already talk about the uncertainty of Lewis’ future as he entered this, his 17th season. Now with the season-ending injury, Lewis’ future is even more unclear. Lewis will be well passed his 38th birthday when next season rolls around, so it could be a very unceremonious end to the career for the sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Fame linebacker.
As much as Lewis will be missed for his intangibles, the loss of Webb is a very tangible, crushing blow. Webb has emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in all of the NFL as teams had started to avoid throwing the ball Webb’s way at any cost this season. Counting the playoffs Webb has nine interceptions since the start of the 2011 season, which is tops in the entire NFL. Webb not only is a blanketing cover-man, but also a very sound tackler and also contributed in the punt return department.
The positive for Webb is that he just turned 27-years-old and this is only his fourth season in the NFL, so he still appears to have a bright future. Webb tore his right ACL in 2009 and bounced back nicely so there is hope there as well. Famous sports-doctor, Dr. James Andrews, repaired that torn right ACL in 2009 and will also handle the procedure on Webb’s torn left ACL this time around.
Another concern is Haloti Ngata. He left the game twice with back and knee issues, but is expected to play in next week’s showdown with the Houston Texans. Ngata’s knee injury has been described as a minor MCL tweak so there is still a reason to feel uneasy despite his probability for week 7.
There is a glimmer of positivity on the injury front, as linebacker and reigning defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs has been running and can return to practice this week. It is still not known when Suggs can return from his Achilles tendon injury, but in light of the crippling injuries sustained yesterday, getting Suggs back will be paramount in helping the Ravens’ 26th-ranked defense get on track.
At 5-1, the Ravens still totally control their own fate, but there has maybe never been a 5-1 team that has such a negative feeling in regards to the big picture. This team was a favorite to win the Super Bowl coming into the season, but with these devastating injuries, winning the Super Bowl seems more far-fetched now. The Ravens already had a vulnerable defense with Lewis and Webb, and now that they have lost these two Pro-Bowlers, the Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations have taken a massive hit.