For all but 1 NFL team, the end of the season is always abrupt.
For teams that fall in the playoffs, that ending feels that much more abrupt.
For the 2023 Baltimore Ravens, the AFC Championship loss at M and T Bank Stadium felt a lot like Wile E Coyote on the wrong end of a malfunctioning Acme catapult.
On several occasions throughout this season, I remarked that the only team that could beat the 2023 Baltimore Ravens was the 2023 Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, I turned out to be a prophet.
It’s not my intention to diminish the efforts of the Kansas City Chiefs. They played a hard-fought game and made enough plays in big moments to advance to their fourth Super Bowl in the last five years.
With that said, the Chiefs were not a better football team than the Baltimore Ravens this year. But alas, the better team doesn’t always win. However, the team that plays with poise and discipline will often triumph over the team that plays tight and out of control.
Eight penalties for 95 yards, which included back-to-back 15 yard infractions that directly lead to field goal at the end of the 1st half to push the deficit to 17-7. Several passes just overthrown. Three turnovers, two of which occurred in the Kansas City endzone and wiped at least 10 points off the board. Not to mention the crushing momentum swings that ensued.
The Kansas City Chiefs; the team that’s been there, done that and bought the t-shirt, seemingly sat back and let the Ravens self-destruct.
Aside from being their own worst enemy with regards to turnovers and penalties, the Ravens gameplan and play calling was bizarre to say the least. There were only 6 rushes combined for running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, while Dalvin Cook never saw the field. Lamar Jackson carried the ball 8 times. Minus the kneel down and 5 scrambles, you’re down to 2 called runs for Jackson. The other 2 rushes were tallied by Zay Flowers. So, Baltimore’s top ranked rushing attack had just 10 called runs against KC’s 18th ranked run defense. A defense that had just allowed 182 yards on the ground to Buffalo in the divisional round.
On 58 offensive snaps, the Ravens dropped back to throw 46 times….46 times in a game that they never trailed by more than 10 points. For a team that prides itself on physicality and playing complementary football to support a suffocating defense, neither of those things happened on Sunday. The lack of both ultimately cost the franchise a trip to the Super Bowl. Absolutely, positively mind boggling.
For 31 out of 32 NFL teams, there is no happy ending. No confetti, no Gatorade shower, no parade. Just a soul-searching look back at the season and what went wrong. Then, a long look forward at the work ahead, while considering any and all possibilities to assure that an abrupt ending doesn’t happen again.
For the Ravens and Lamar Jackson, this latest abrupt ending to a season needs to be accompanied by a long look in the mirror. In that reflection, they need to recognize what they’ve accomplished but also realize how they’ve failed. The organization can only hope the sting of yet another bitter exit from the playoffs serves as a lesson, a cautionary tale, of how not to come up short next time.
Jamie has been a Baltimore sports fan since he can remember. He grew up in Gwynn Oak and currently resides in Hampstead with his wife and 2 kids. He graduated from UMBC with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He’s currently employed at Verizon Communications in Hunt Valley.