It was an emotional ending to a difficult season.
Baltimore's 16-13 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers reflected the Ravens' 2021 campaign in so many ways. It was their sixth straight defeat, a losing streak that cost them a playoff spot that looked well within reach when they were 8-3 and had the best record in the AFC.
After Chris Boswell's game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights, the finality of Baltimore's season hit the Ravens like a truck. The hurt was visible and players reacted in different ways.
Safety and defensive leader Chuck Clark acted like he was still in game mode when he walked to the podium for his post-game press conference. He didn't take questions and delivered a message for anyone who suspected that the team's fighting spirit had been broken.
"As respectfully as I can say as possible, just watch how we bounce back," Clark said. "That's all I have to say."
The fight is still there, but the Ravens (8-9) are done until next season. For veteran players like Calais Campbell and Jimmy Smith, who are weighing the pros and cons of retirement, this may have been their final game. Campbell didn't go straight to the locker room when the game ended, spending time on the bench soaking up the scene and talking to teammates before he left the field. This isn't the ending Campbell imagined, and it was hard to process.
Throughout the game, Campbell knew that the Jacksonville Jaguars were upsetting the Indianapolis Colts, an unlikely development that kept Baltimore's playoff hopes alive until Boswell's game-winning kick. When the Ravens didn't hold up their end by winning Sunday's game, the pain of losing hit Campbell even harder.
"That makes it sting a whole lot more," Campbell said. "I was aware the whole game. I was tracking along, scoreboard watching, just because it's natural to do.
"I feel like we had our opportunities, we just didn't get it done. That's the way the whole season has been – opportunity after opportunity and just missing it. There's a lot of fight in this team, a lot of heart. It's just tough when you give it that much effort and that much energy but you can't get it done. Those ones hurt the most."
Campbell didn't say if he had decided to retire or not after 14 NFL seasons, but he desperately wanted to win a Super Bowl this year and knows his time is running out.
"I haven't been in this situation before, so I don't know," Campbell said. "I'd hate to end it this way, that's for sure. I guess very few people get to win the Super Bowl and run off into the sunset. I guess you're always going to be upset unless you won it all.
Head Coach John Harbaugh reflected on the Ravens' effort not only in this game, but throughout a trying campaign of devastating injuries that would have crushed a team that wasn't as resilient.
"They stuck together," Harbaugh said. "No one ever pointed a finger. Everybody competed the best they could."
Twelve of the Ravens' 17 games were decided on the final play or in the final minute, and the Ravens lost five of their last six games by a total of eight points. Their inability to win any of those close games was their undoing.
"We fell short in numerous games here down the stretch in the sense that we just couldn't find a play," Harbaugh said. "We couldn't find a play that we needed. We couldn't find a way to put them in position to make the play that would make the difference in the game, and that's what I feel worse about as a coach. Any one of these games we could've found something to find a way to win the game. We would have liked to have done that, but we didn't come up with that. That's my biggest disappointment."
When the Ravens had a chance to close the door on Pittsburgh, they left it cracked and Ben Roethlisberger slipped through the crack. The Steelers swept the season series with the Ravens for the second straight year, and Sunday's loss will be remembered as one of the most painful defeats in the rivalry.
Running back Latavius Murray (16 carries,150 yards, one touchdown) had his best game as a Raven and rushed for 115 yards in the third quarter alone. But it wasn't enough to keep Baltimore's season going, and the Ravens were left with plenty of time for the hurt sink in.
"It's a tale [of] two seasons, if you want to say that," Murray said. "The first half of the season, we found a way to win these games, in the second half, we didn't.