They say you should “act like you’ve been there before.” Well, this version of the Baltimore Ravens and every edition of the Detroit Lions hadn’t done that – so they acted as such. The Chiefs and the 49ers did, and it showed.
For the Lions and Ravens and all their fans, it will hurt for a very long time. It should because when it matters so much, especially when playing a significant role in their own downfall.
„I’m not frustrated at all,“ said Lamar Jackson after the game. „I’m angry about the loss. We’re just one game away from the Super Bowl. We’ve waited all this time, all these moments for an opportunity like this, and we failed. But I feel like our team will build on this offseason, that we will get better, grind and try to be in this position again – but on the other side of victory.“
You see, that’s the thing about Jackson and the Ravens under his leadership – too much talk, not enough execution.
„Every day, I think about the Super Bowl,“ Jackson said in 2020. „It has been on my mind since the first game of the season. When I was drafted, I told Baltimore that’s what I would do. I want to be the (Tom) Brady of my time.“
Quotes like these haunt you repeatedly when you’re on the cusp of winning your second MVP but still haven’t made it to the Super Bowl, and when you had your best chance yet, you lost to the man already on his way to being the „Brady of your era.“
What we saw in Baltimore on Sunday was not just a team from Kansas City determined to come to the Usher concert, but also a Ravens team suffocating at full force. The offense that seemed unstoppable was child’s play against the underrated Chiefs defense. Jackson threw an idiotic interception and lost a fumble. Wide receiver Zay Flowers made several foolish and emotional decisions, fumbling into the end zone, receiving a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (while losing) and cutting his hand on the bench after hitting it in frustration.
A week ago, the Ravens were the number one contender. On Sunday, they looked frauds. But they weren’t the only ones.
One of the Detroit Lions‘ claims to fame/shame is being the first team to reach 0-16 and one of the few NFL franchises to never make it to the Super Bowl. They were so close to greatness as underdogs on the road on Sunday. And then they blew it.
„We don’t go out like that,“ said San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan of his team’s mentality at halftime. „Guys didn’t want today to be the last day. We got in a hole. They played like that in the second half, and we made it back to what we did in the first half.“
Detroit tied the record for the biggest blown lead in an NFC title game by relinquishing a 17-point lead. All 17 points were scored in eight minutes in the third quarter. When the Lions came out of the locker room, they got punched in the mouth, and Dan Campbell’s decision to go for it on fourth down – twice – when in field goal range, hit him deeply.
“In hindsight, it’s easy. I get that. I understand that, but I don’t regret those decisions, and it’s tough,” said the Lions‘ head coach, who has been overly aggressive in such situations in the past. „It’s tough because we didn’t get it done, and it couldn’t work, but I don’t. And I understand the criticism I’m going to get – that’s part of the show – but it just didn’t work.“
If football were blackjack, Campbell would be the guy holding two kings and still telling the dealer to „hit me!“ And at some point, we have to wonder if he’s trying to win games or prove a point. One answer seems more obvious than the other.
The NFL almost had a storybook ending in store when the Lions and Chiefs opened the season and were on track to a rematch in the finale – until the „same old Lions“ showed up in the second half. And now we’ll be forced to deal with even more coverage of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce because Baltimore and Detroit couldn’t get it done, as we now get a Super Bowl 54 rematch. At least the halftime show has been improved.