Part of what makes the Ravens such a compelling story for the Super Bowl isn't just their unusual journey, but this is Ray Lewis' final game after 17 years.
It's his "last ride," Lewis' phrasing when he announced his retirement before the playoffs began earlier this month.
But to beat the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3 in New Orleans, it will take more than the emotion of the moment. The Ravens have to gameplan for quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the read-option that has proven difficult to stop in the postseason.
"Outside of putting my head in the playbook and really just studying San Fran, I haven't really thought about anything else. It's going to be a great day, period, no matter what happens," said Lewis, MVP of the 2001 Super Bowl for the Ravens in their only other appearance. "And that's the kind of way I've approached it."
The Ravens have overcome a spate of injuries, the death of former owner Art Modell and Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee have lost family members this season.
They lost four of their last five regular-season games but regrouped to knock off the top-seeded Denver Broncos and New England Patriots on the road to advance to the Super Bowl.
Lewis, who missed 10 games because of a triceps tear and returned for the first three games of the playoffs, would rather wait until the Super Bowl is over to think about the journey.
"I haven't said (to myself), 'Oh man, this is your last game what do you think?' I really haven't because I just really am keeping my teammates focused on the real prize. ... It's great to get here. Don't get me wrong," Lewis said. "But to win it is something special. (When) you feel that confetti drop, then I'll probably reflect then."