The end of an NFL season happens quickly. The anticipation and excitement of a playoff run can evaporate in what seems like the blink of eye.
On a chilly night in Orchard Park, NY, the 2020 Ravens campaign came to an unceremonious end. The team was riding high during a 6 game winning streak, which included dispatching the Tennessee Titans in the wild card round. The Ravens seemed poised to continue deeper into the postseason. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the Buffalo Bills were able to stymie their top ranked rushing attack and, in doing so, punched their own ticket to the AFC title game by virtue of a 17-3 victory.
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Finagle’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will – at the worst possible moment.” For the Ravens, this law seemed to be on repeat for the majority of the night. Just some of the miscues included 2 missed field goals by all world kicker Justin Tucker, key drops by rookie JK Dobbins, poor snaps from center Patrick Mekari and a goal to go interception from Lamar Jackson, which proved to be the turning point in low scoring struggle. The red zone interception was the first of Jackson’s career and turned into a 101 yard defensive score. Adding insult to injury, any legitimate hopes of a comeback were squelched in the waning moments of the 3rd quarter when yet another Mekari snap went awry. Jackson chased down the errant snap and tried to throw it away near his own goal line. On the play, Jackson took a hard hit, suffered a concussion and was declared out for the remainder of the game.
In Jackson’s stead, Tyler Huntley was forced into action. Considering the circumstances, Huntley did an admirable job and did not seem overwhelmed by the moment. He even had an opportunity to spark an unlikely turnaround; on 4th and 8 from deep in his own territory, the backup QB dropped back and saw Hollywood Brown streaking behind the Buffalo secondary. He stepped up and fired to the speedy wide receiver, only to see his pass sail over Brown’s head and fall harmlessly incomplete. Yet another missed opportunity for the Ravens to spend an offseason lamenting.
The loss should not mar what was an outstanding effort by Wink Martindale’s unit. The Ravens defense held the AFC’s highest scoring offense to only 10 points. By doing so, they did all that they could to keep hope alive for an offense that struggled to finish drives and put points on the board. The defensive performance in this postseason should serve as the cherry on top of Martindale’s head coaching resume. With Philadelphia, Detroit and Houston still looking to fill vacancies, Coach Wink should get a long look.
Speaking of defense, the Buffalo Bills deserve a ton of credit for playing disciplined football. They employed zone coverage and kept eyes on Jackson throughout his time on the field. Their coverage schemes not only made it difficult to make throws but they also left little space for Jackson to break contain and get loose on scrambles. Add to that, relentless pressure from the Bills defensive front that wore out the Ravens offensive line. Those things (along with a stiff wind that impacted both offenses and the kicking game) conspired to hold the Ravens offense in check. Baltimore moved into Bills territory on 5 occasions, 3 of which were in the red zone, yet they only emerged with 3 points. The inability to finish drives was Baltimore’s undoing.
The Ravens will now face the offseason with questions to be answered. Will Harbaugh be searching for a new defensive coordinator? Can they finally find a playmaking wide receiver after 25 years of failing to do so? What positions will they target in the draft? Will they offer Lamar Jackson a monster extension? The answers to these questions and others will come in due time.
In a season that saw them overcome several key injuries, a stagnant November, a COVID outbreak and win their first playoff game in the Lamar Jackson era, the 2020 Ravens provided a welcome respite from a world that was seemingly turned upside for many of us. Although they fell short of achieving their ultimate goal, the Baltimore Ravens are one of the most stable franchises in the NFL. With committed ownership, one of the league’s best front offices and a top 5 head coach, the Ravens should be in position to contend for a division and conference title again in 2021.
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.