BALTIMORE - Ray Lewis did his part to ensure that his last home game wouldn't also be the final chapter of his NFL career.
Lewis had a team-high 13 tackles Sunday to help the Baltimore Ravens beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 Sunday in the opening round of the playoffs. Although the 37-year-old middle linebacker dropped a sure interception, his performance in the middle of the Baltimore defense - and the emotional lift it provided - was a key component of the victory.
He finished up by entering on offense, 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage as Baltimore ran a kneel-down to wrap up the game. As the clock ticked down to 0:00, Lewis broke into his trademark dance.
Baltimore will next travel to Denver to face the top-seeded Broncos on Saturday. Lewis announced Wednesday he will end his 17-year NFL career after the Ravens complete their postseason run.
Wearing a brace on his right arm, Lewis played for the first time since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14 against Dallas. He had seven tackles in the first half, including one in the Indianapolis backfield on running back Vick Ballard during a blitz.
Early in the second quarter, Lewis had a deflected pass in his grasp with designs of taking it into the end zone. But he dropped the ball, and many in the sellout crowd uttered a collective, "Ohh!"
There was some question as to how long Lewis would last in his first game action in three months. But the aged warrior appeared as fresh as the day he played his first game back in 1996.
With Lewis leading the way, the Ravens held the Colts without a touchdown. It was only the second time this season that Indianapolis failed to score in double figures.
As the clock approached the two-minute warning, fans behind the Baltimore sideline shouted in unison, "Thank you, Ray!"
Then, with 1:57 left, the scoreboard aired a montage of Lewis' finest plays, including several crushing hits. He responded by clasping his hands together over his head, tapping his heart and waving.
Minutes before the opening kickoff, Lewis thrilled the sellout crowd during introductions by coming out of the tunnel and gyrating to the tune "Hot in Here." Lewis does the dance only before home games, and this was Baltimore's last this season at M&T Bank Stadium.
He concluded pre-game warmups by addressing the entire team on the 5-yard line. After his short speech, Lewis hugged a few teammates and mingled with a few people in the crowd.
Thousands of fans were wearing No. 52 jerseys. Lewis has been a fan favorite in Baltimore since he was selected in the first round of the Ravens' initial draft in 1996.