While clearing out their lockers the Ravens players reflect on what went wrong in the Titans' game.
In the aftermath of Saturday night’s stunning playoff upset at the hands of the wild-card Tennessee Titans, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked how his team should be remembered.
“14-2," he said. "Great team, a family-oriented team, Flock Nation.”
That’s certainly true, but it’s going to be a hard sell for awhile.
The purple passion had gotten blown so out of proportion over the past three months that nothing short of a Super Bowl championship was going to be an acceptable end to this unprecedented, uplifting, mood ring of a season.
It’s just football, of course, but there was even a growing sense that Lamarmania might become some kind elixir for all the things that have been ailing Baltimore.
What a load that had to be for a young man who just turned 23 and completed his first full season Saturday as an NFL starting quarterback.
The city already had fallen in love with him during the terrific second half of his rookie season. That turned into a national romance this year as he emerged as the most exciting young player in the league.
Jackson performed all sorts of magic to lead the Ravens to 12 straight victories and the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so it’s no wonder the loss to the long-shot Titans left this broken city with a broken heart.
Obviously it was naive to think that one charismatic young athlete or one very good professional football team could have a significant impact on the problems that face one of America’s most troubled cities, but a Super Bowl title surely would have put Baltimore in a more positive national spotlight.
Instead, Ravens fans are left to hope that this devastating loss will serve as added motivation for the players and the franchise to come back stronger and more determined to win it all next season.
That’s what happened after the Ravens lost that galling AFC title game to the Patriots in 2012 ... the one that ended when kicker Billy Cundiff missed a short field-goal attempt that could have sent the game into overtime.
The veteran players on the team used that disappointment as motivation to get back to Gillette Stadium a year later and punch their ticket to Super Bowl XLVII.
Jackson tried to point the conversation in that direction during his postgame media session Saturday night, but he came into the game with his own past-is-prologue motivational tool, and all he was able to do was replicate the worst part of his disappointing performance in last year’s wild-card round loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
He turned the ball over three times and found a way to lose on a night when he personally rolled up a combined 508 yards of total offense.
The takeaway from that is this: Even in a game he’ll probably remember as one of the worst of both his college and professional careers, he still displayed the otherworldly talent that Ravens fans will be able to enjoy for years to come.
He’s already garnered All-Pro honors, was the top vote-getter in the Pro Bowl balloting and is almost certain to be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in a few weeks.
Let’s not forget that.
“We’re going to get better,” Jackson said, keeping his head high after Saturday night’s game. "We only can get better. It’s only [up] from here.”
It might not feel that way right now, but let’s also not forget that Jackson is 19-5 as a starting quarterback and that he’s under contract for at least the next three years.