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A Bad Dream or Car Crash: Ravens React to Stunning Playoff Loss


In the Ravens' locker room, the shock of what happened to them could not be hidden.

Not a single player imagined such an ending after such a historic 2019 regular season. Baltimore entered the playoffs as the AFC's No. 1 seed, riding a 12-game winning streak after the best regular season (14-2) in franchise history.

But for the second straight year, the Ravens' playoff experience was one-and-done. Saturday night's 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the divisional playoffs left players and coaches deflated.

By late in the third quarter, Baltimore trailed by 22 points, and it felt like a vacuum had sucked the Super Bowl dreams out of M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens will have a long offseason to digest what went wrong, after a season when so many things went right. Lamar Jackson is expected to win the MVP award. The Ravens had 12 Pro Bowlers and set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single season.

However, what the Ravens wanted most was a championship, and for the second straight season, they were knocked out of the playoffs at home. Emotions were raw among players, and Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey gave a harsh assessment.

"The sad reality of it is, this Ravens' team, we've been here two years in a row and we've lost, so I think you've got to look yourself in the mirror," Humphrey said. "This team's identity right now is get in the playoffs and choke. It is what it is. That's just the hard truth."

Humphrey said watching the scoreboard during the final few minutes felt surreal.

"Even down to the clock hitting zero, it was, 'Is this really happening?'" Humphrey said. "One of the guys was like, 'This is a dream. I'm going to wake up tomorrow and it's going to be Saturday, it's going to be game day.' That's what it felt like, honestly, as crazy as it sounds."

It was a nightmare for the Ravens, who fell behind 14-0 and saw running back Derrick Henry rush for more yards (195 yards) than anyone against Baltimore in playoff franchise history. The Ravens talked all week about how important it was to contain Henry, then failed to do it. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce is in the final year of his contract and does not want his Ravens career to end this way.

"It hit me when the clock was running out that this could potentially be the last time I play here," Pierce said, adding that he wants to return. "He (Henry) is a dominating back. Dude is in a zone unlike anything I've ever played against. Hats off to him. Their offensive line really worked well together."

Running back Mark Ingram II feverously rehabbed to return for this game after injuring his calf on Dec. 22. At age 30, Ingram doesn't know how many more chances he will have to reach the Super Bowl, and he was disappointed this opportunity slipped away.

"I've been on a lot of great teams, but I've never won a Super Bowl," Ingram said. "So really, those great teams, are just great teams that didn't win [it all]. So, yeah, we've just got to get back to work and fix this up for next year. Right now, we've got to feel how this feels and be back."

This game was the Ravens' worst performance of the season, and they looked like a team that lost momentum and timing after resting many of their starters in Week 17, followed by a bye week before the divisional round. But players refused to use rust as an excuse.

"It's playoff football. You've got to be ready," rookie running back Justice Hill said. "Bye, no bye, it doesn't matter. I thought we came out ready to play but it wasn't good enough."

Outside linebacker Matthew Judon is another pending free agent, but he didn't want to talk about his future so soon after the defeat. He remembered this year's team as a special group of players with a unique comradery. But this playoff loss was hard to digest.

"You don't ever expect to get into a car crash until you get into a car crash, and I feel like that's what it is," Judon said. "We were riding. We were rolling hot, and it hit us."

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