Two of the best inside linebackers in football face off Sunday in Baltimore.
Ray Lewis, now 36 years old, has his best shot at a second Super Bowl ring in years. Texans linebacker Brian Cushing is trying to help the Texans win their second playoff game ever.
Cushing has been looking up to Lewis a long time.
“Ray’s the best that’s ever played,” Cushing said via the Houston Chronicle. “He’s the guy I grew up watching. He’s the guy I wanted to model my game after.”
There are some similarities. They are both versatile, emotional, and give great effort. They both had controversial off-field incidents early in their career. The two men have a mutual admiration society.
“I just think [Cushing] plays with a very, very, very high motor,” Lewis said. “It’s one special thing that every linebacker, a good linebacker, has to have. And that is one thing that I appreciate about the way he plays football.”
Cushing has a long way to go to be in Lewis’ class historically, but Cushing is the better player now. Lewis hasn’t been the same since a toe injury suffered during the season. Cushing’s play rose dramatically this year. He’s been the engine to the Houston’s defense.
That defense will have to be dominant Sunday to have a chance to win. They have to compensate for a quarterback that is not Super Bowl ready, which is a problem Lewis knows all about.