The Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans were two of the hottest teams to take the field over the first month and a half or so of the season. Tennessee was able to run up to 5-0 before they finally lost to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens for a while had only lost to the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, before, again, losing to the Steelers.
Both, however, had been on a downswing of late heading into Sunday’s showdown. Beginning with the loss to Pittsburgh, the Titans were 1-3 in their four previous games heading into Baltimore. As for the Ravens, they had lost two of their previous three games, including the loss to Pittsburgh. Both found themselves at 6-3 and in need of a rebound to stay in the division race.
The Titans got that rebound on a walkoff game-winning touchdown by Derrick Henry in overtime. The Ravens did not. And quarterback Lamar Jackson did not exactly inspire confidence in his comments after the game. Not only did he suggest that the Titans were more determined to win the game, he also lamented that it seems as though there are people who want the Ravens to lose.
“It looked like that team wanted it more than us”, he told the media following a loss in which he went 17 for 29 for 186 yards with one touchdown and one interception. “They were playing physical. When we went up, I felt like we just took our foot off the gas. But we just have to keep it going for the team”.
About five minutes into the second half, the Ravens managed to take a 21-10 lead, before the Titans would respond with 14 unanswered points. Baltimore needed a last-minute field goal just to send it into overtime, when Henry shut the door.
After being asked about his number one receiver, Marquise Brown, who previously complained about his lack of targets (he was targeted three times with no catches in the game), Jackson was followed up with a question about how the third-year quarterback and reigning unanimous league MVP could be a better leader.
“Just focus. Keep our heads up”, he said. “We were in worse situations my rookie year, and we turned the season around. People were doubting us then. I feel like people want us to lose, but we just have to bounce back. We’re good. It’s going to be a rival game come Thursday, and we’ll turn up then”.
People, of course, do want the Ravens to lose. Fans of other teams want them to lose, particularly Steelers fans. And they have been getting what they want lately, as they have now lost three of their last four games, and are actually on the outside looking in on an expanded playoff field this year.
“I’m not really a vocal leader; I probably lead by example nine times out of 10”, he admitted, referencing a pre-game speech that he gave. “But I just felt like the time was right. I felt like we were doing pretty good, but we just have to finish. We shouldn’t be in overtime. We have to finish drives”.
Now Baltimore is on the verge of being eliminated from the running for the AFC North with a loss on Thursday against the Steelers. As two-time defending division champions, to fall out of that race with five games to play would be stark humiliation given the expectations that were on the table for 2020—with one certain pundit predicting them to go 16-0 and, ironically, for the 10-0 Steelers to go 7-9.