Truth be told, I did not expect to be writing about an early playoff exit by the Baltimore Ravens. While I wasn’t sure they would actually make it all the way to the Super Bowl, I figured that they would manage to win at least one postseason game after going 14-2 in the regular season, their best in franchise history, with a 12-game winning streak.
Yet they didn’t play like the same team, and that’s why they lost. Let me clarify: they didn’t perform in the same fashion as they did in the regular season. They were the same adventurous and risk-taking team that they were in the first 16 games of the year. They simply couldn’t pull off the same sort of success.
In fact, they were down 28-6 already with a little under 20 minutes to play. Lamar Jackson had been held to under 200 passing yards by then on 15 of 30 passing with zero touchdowns and an interception. The Tennessee Titans got that touchdown after a Jackson fumble, capped off by a Derrick Henry jump pass after he converted on third and one with a 66-yard burst.
He followed in response to that drive with a second interception, a remarkable thing considering the fact that he had thrown just six interceptions in over 400 pass attempts during the regular season, and had significantly cut down on his fumbles, as well.
With three giveaways, he tied his season-high after throwing three interceptions against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He only had multiple giveaways in one other game on the year, the week before the Pittsburgh game, but he then went eight consecutive games without an interception.
Honestly, I had already begun writing this after the Henry touchdown pass because I was that confident the Titans would win. The Ravens had not trailed by double digits since Week Four, the last time they lost. They also never won a playoff game after trailing by 14 points, which is how the game opened. And as it turned out, I didn’t have to waste any of my writing, because Mike Vrabel’s Titans will be advancing to the AFC Championship game.
Jackson has been the most remarkable player of the regular season over the past year and a half, posting a 19-3 record over that span. However, he is now 0-2 in the postseason, and he has looked bad in both games, in spite of some too-little-too-late heroics. As was the case against the Los Angeles Chargers last season, Jackson made it a little interesting toward the end, but it wasn’t enough, a touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst cutting the lead to 28-12 following a missed two-point conversion.
That’s not to say that he isn’t a great player, and won’t have great success in the postseason in the future. He’s still just 23 years old. Last year, he became the youngest quarterback to ever start a postseason game. The future is still very bright. This is a bitter ending for this team, though, a feeling that the 2017 Steelers can very much relate to.