Dies the season, dies an era in Baltimore — the Ray Lewis era.
Eleven years after he was named the Super Bowl MVP and Charm City threw the Ravens a parade, Lewis wasn’t going anywhere but home — to train for next season.
“Is this my last time as a Raven?” he said, rhetorically. “Absolutely not. Let me answer that question before somebody asks me that question.
“I’ve been in this business too long for this to be the toughest loss ever,” Lewis added. “Is it a tough loss? Absolutely.
“That’s the irony of sports — there is a winner and a loser and when you lose, you have to suck it up like a man and as a man you’ve got to keep moving. We’ve got to keep moving and building and remember this taste no manner how many times you go through it — because when you finally get to it — you will appreciate it more.”
But this had to hurt more than so many others — to be so close, especially after Evans appeared to score. And then Cundiff’s crushing miss.
“To be honest, I don’t think they want to hear an apology,” Cundiff said when asked if he had spoken to Lewis or any of his teammates afterward. “They laid it all out there. I laid it all out there. And it just wasn’t good enough.”
His voice was unsteady at times, but Cundiff faced the music with his head up.
The Ravens won the turnover battle. They won the time-of-possession battle. They kept the Patriots’ hurry-up offense from hurrying up and burying them with touchdowns.
Lewis turned back the clock, making monster hits, putting his right arm out to thwart a goal-line rush by New England, turning his forearm and bicep into a meat hook that pushed the Patriots back.
And all that was needed to send it into an extra period was a kick the field-goal kicker said he’d made 1,000 times. Snap. Hold. Kick.
Wide left? Wide left.
“As a man, no one play won or lost this game,” Lewis said. “Could you have put us in a position to keep playing? Absolutely. But one play didn’t win or lose the game. There is no one man who ever lost a game. Don’t you ever drop your head. We win as a team, we lose as a team.
“There is no, ‘Billy is the fault, Billy missed the kick.’ It happens, move on, move on, as a man, because life doesn’t stop.”
That’s as comforting as it might get for Billy Cundiff on Sunday, the day he missed the kick that may have ended an era — no matter how much Ray Lewis believes otherwise.