The Baltimore Ravens’ locker room was quiet Saturday night, save for the shuffling of reporters’ feet and the occasional expletive echoing from around the corner. Earl Thomas draped a towel over his head. Matthew Judon likened the night to a car crash. Michael Pierce turned away from reporters, rested his head on a shelf in his locker and stood motionless for several seconds.
“Damn, man,” he said quietly.
Baltimore’s 2019 season wasn’t supposed to end like this, in a 28-12 shellacking at the hands of the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans. For months, the Ravens had spoken cautiously but confidently about their Super Bowl aspirations. They had the presumptive MVP at quarterback in Lamar Jackson. They had 12 Pro Bowlers. Home-field advantage. A 12-game winning streak. The stage was set perfectly.
“(Expletive), we got our ass whooped today,” running back Mark Ingram said. “For real.”
Ravens players spent the moments after Saturday’s game in something of a daze, frustrated by their performance and befuddled by how their dream season unraveled so quickly. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey said it didn’t feel real.
“Even down to the clock hitting zero, I was still like, ‘Is this really happening?’” he 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 and it’s going to be game day.’ That’s kind of what it felt like, honestly, as crazy as that sounds.”
For Baltimore, it wasn’t just that Saturday night happened, but how. Tennessee not only managed to clamp down on the Ravens’ strengths, but also use their own identity against them.
The Ravens led the league in fourth-down conversion rate (70.8%) during the regular season, but they went 0-for-4 on fourth downs against Tennessee. They also led the league in rushing and had the league’s No. 5 rushing defense. But the Titans held Baltimore running backs to 42 yards on just nine carries, while Derrick Henry bulldozed his way to a 195-yard performance.