Now that Ray Lewis and his Ravens Pro Bowl cohorts are officially finished with football for the 2009 season, it's time to look back and hand out some seasonal awards. (and in some cases, a few disappointments).
On a 9-7 record, Baltimore snuck into the playoffs and then made a statement with a resounding 33-14 defeat of the third-seeded New England Patriots before losing, 20-3, to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round.
With that said, here's a look at the list:
Offensive Most Valuable Player: RB Ray RiceRunning back Ray Rice was a dynamo, and he was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl berth. Rice put the offense on his back towards the end of the season, and he finished his sophomore campaign with 2,041 total yards, the NFL's second-most.
Defensive MVP: LB Jarret Johnson
Linebacker Jarret Johnson may not garner the headlines of his teammates, but he turned in one stellar season. Johnson was all over the place, whether it was his two interceptions, six sacks or 70 tackles. And, a lot of those came while the tough Alabama product played through injury.
Special Teams MVP: K Billy CundiffThe Ravens' kicking situation was in limbo with Steve Hauschka at the tee, but Billy Cundiff solidified that position. He had his share of misses, but many of them were the result of poor snaps. Cundiff's stability – he was 12-of-17 on the year – helped calm a city up in arms about the kicker.
Rookie of the Year: RT Michael Oher
The 23rd-overall selection, rose to the top of the league with stellar play on both the left and right tackle positions. Oher's toughness and athletic ability should be protecting quarterback Joe Flacco for many years to come.
Unsung Hero(es):Secondary coaches Chuck Pagano and Mark Carrier
The two secondary coaches turned a mash unit in the defensive backfield into a capable group that held up against some elite quarterbacks toward the end of the season. Losing Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb, Haruki Nakamura and Ed Reed at times were tough blows to withstand.
Biggest Beat Down: LB Ray LewisWhen linebacker Ray Lewis knifed through the San Diego Chargers' offensive line to stuff running back Darren Sproles for a 5-yard loss with 30 seconds left, it shut up the entire capacity crowd at Qualcomm Stadium. And it proved that No. 52 is still playing at a high level.
Moment That Made Me Cry: Hauschka's Minnesota Miss
Hauschka's shank of a potential game-winning 44-yard field goal against the then-undefeated Minnesota Vikings in Week 6 not only jump-started the rumblings of his demise, but also capped a three-game losing skid.
Moment That Made Me Break the No-Cheering in the Press Box Rule: Rice's Patriots TouchdownRice's 83-yard burst off Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda blocks on the first play of the Wild-Card game in New England was like nothing I've even seen. The only other times I've wanted to cheer as much in an NFL press box was when Chicago's Devin Hester ran the opening kickoff for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI and when the Steelers' James Harrison took a Kurt Warner interception end zone-to-end zone last season.
Head Scratcher of the Year: New England Non-ChallengeThe decision not to challenge a lost fumble on a punt in New England was perplexing. Coach John Harbaugh said there wasn't good video evidence that the Patriots player bobbled possession falling out of bounds, but that might be a time to throw the red hankie and hope for the best.
Biggest Punking: RB Willis McGahee's Stiff-Arm
Willis McGahee's stiff-arm of Raiders safety Hiram Eugene was a thing of beauty to everyone except Oakland fans and Eugene's family. En route to a 77-yard touchdown run, McGahee just shoved Eugene to the ground like he was a high schooler.
Biggest Injury Loss: CB Lardarius WebbWebb was just emerging as a tough, athletic playmaker after four starts for an injured Washington, but he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 15 against the Chicago Bears. Not only did that end a promising rookie season, the timing of the injury might limit him in training camp.
Free-Agent Stud: C Matt BirkBirk was a lynchpin for the Ravens' young offensive line. The six-time Pro Bowler ended a storied career in Minnesota and immediately gelled in the locker room and was steady on the field. His professionalism kept the unit operating at a high level for most of the year.
Free-Agent Letdown: TE L.J. SmithTight end L.J. Smith. The Ravens knew he would need to stay healthy after an injury-marred career with the Philadelphia Eagles, but simply couldn't. And even when he was, Smith rarely made it onto the field. For an offense that needed more weapons, the Ravens needed more out of Smith.
Just When It Couldn't Get Any Worse…: The Colts LossThe sky was falling for many fans after a tough 17-15 loss to the Colts in Week 11. The Ravens could only muster five field goals in four trips to the red zone, including three consecutive unsuccessful cracks from the 1-yard line. With six games remaining, the Ravens' playoff hopes were on the line.
…You Totally Redeem Yourself!: Patriots Playoff WinAs bad as it was in Indy, the Ravens managed to redeem themselves in a wild card playoff win against the Patriots. Following the game, it was quite a sight to see the thousands of screaming Ravens fans at Gillette Stadium. And when Harbaugh made his rounds to high five the appreciative fans, it was a goosebump-inducing moment.