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Ravens News 1/29: Unpleasant Ending

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AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Ravens fall short of Super Bowl after wilting on big stage in loss to Chiefs: ‘It sucks’

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

Even with their previous recent playoff failures, this team felt different. The quarterback acted and sounded different. Yet, one game away from the Super Bowl, the Ravens melted down in a 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium that should stick in this franchise’s craw for quite a while.

“I just think it’s not getting the job done and just knowing our potential and the guys that you have in the locker room,” Smith said. “We all put so much on the line just like anyone else and just let ourselves down in that position. It sucks. Just knowing how close we were to what we really wanted. But at the end of the day, it is what it is and it just has to add more fuel to you. That’s how I’m taking it, so that’s what it’s going to be. It definitely sucks. It hurts.”

“When you just think about how hard it is to make it back to this position knowing all the adversity, the obstacles that you have to go through to get to this point, it sucks,” Smith said. “It’s tough because there’s a lot of things that have to go your way in order for you to get here. And for us busting our tails day in and day out since OTAs with the coaches, with each other having the attendance we had, and just like knowing how each and every person cared about one another, it sucks.”

Report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 17-10 loss to Chiefs in AFC title game

Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun

Quarterback

Lamar Jackson never got into a rhythm with his offense. He had his moments, but he was off his game and several times underthrew and overthrew receivers and running backs out of the backfield. The Ravens’ best play, as it has been all season, was Jackson scrambling and improvising. This game should have been his defining moment in the NFL. Instead, he and the Ravens came up short. Jackson completed 20 of 37 passes for 272 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushed eight times for 54 yards. He finished with a passer rating of 75.5. There were times when he showed the lack of breakaway speed he once had. Grade: C

Offensive line

The Ravens got exposed. Tackles Morgan Moses and Ronnie Stanley couldn’t handle Kansas City’s pass rush and the Ravens had problems picking up blitzes. They tried to counter with tight ends and running backs helping off the edge, but that took receivers out of the passing routes. The Ravens need to select some offensive linemen in the draft, and Morgan played the final quarter of the season with a leg injury. Kansas City had four sacks and hit Jackson three other times. Grade: C-

Five Takeaways From The Ravens’ 17-10 Loss To The Chiefs

Bo Smolka, PressBox

Todd Monken’s offensive approach left much to be desired.

Baltimore’s offensive coordinator was at his best last weekend when the Ravens adjusted their offense at halftime, scored on three straight drives and pulled away to a 34-10 win against Houston in the divisional round.

This week, though, Monken had no answers against the Chiefs’ defense, and his offensive approach seemed curious at best.

The Chiefs allowed 4.46 yards a carry during the regular season, which ranked 24th in the league, and yet the Ravens all but ignored their running backs. Ravens running backs finished the game with six carries for 23 yards, and carried just two times after halftime. Gus Edwards ran three times for 20 yards, including a 15-yarder, and Justice Hill carried three times for three yards.

To be clear, the Chiefs deserve credit for stifling the Ravens run game other than Jackson, who finished with 54 yards on eight carries. But the Ravens all but abandoned the running game in the second half in a 10-point game, a frequent criticism of former coordinator Greg Roman.

Asked about the Ravens vanishing run game, head coach John Harbaugh said, “It was that kind of a game, I’d say. That’s the way it worked out.”

It was as if Monken made up his mind, with the Ravens trailing by 10, that the Ravens would lean on Jackson and the passing attack. Except that wasn’t working.

The Chiefs’ blitzes harassed and inundated Jackson into sacks, batted passes and rushed incompletions. Monken had no answer for it. In other games, Monken and Jackson at times turned to quick slants to Odell Beckham Jr. or hitches or bubble screens to Zay Flowers to counter pressure. Beckham, the Ravens’ highest paid receiver, didn’t see a pass thrown his way until the fourth quarter.

The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Ravens’ Loss in AFC Championship

Clifton Brown, BaltimoreRavens.com

Lamar Jackson Sounds Determined to Bounce Back

Jackson talked about winning a Super Bowl all season and will have to wait at least another season. However, the Ravens’ franchise quarterback said he wouldn’t allow this postseason defeat to discourage him moving forward.

“I’m very proud of my team,” Jackson said. “We made it all the way to this point. One game away from the Super Bowl, we fell short. Nobody thought we were going to be in this position. But we were. Next time we’ve just got to finish.”

“When you have a player like Lamar, 30 years from now we’ll speak of Lamar Jackson’s name,” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “The greats have all been through tough times. I don’t think this will going to stop him from wanting to get to his ultimate goal. If anything, he’s going to work even harder. I just felt like it was his time, but sometimes things happen in life and it doesn’t go the way you planned. It’s about what you do from here.”

The 5 biggest questions facing the Ravens this offseason

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

How many big-name free agents can they keep?

According to Russell Street Report, the Ravens are projected to have about $16 million in cap space this offseason. After accounting for the rookie class, 2024 practice squad and in-season replacements, there will be even less money to spend. The Ravens have cap relief levers they can pull — more on that later — but Jackson’s megadeal has effectively consigned them to years of free-agent austerity.

Madubuike, who led all NFL interior defensive linemen in 2023 with 13 sacks, is expected to be the Ravens’ top target. He turned down contract extension offers from general manager Eric DeCosta last offseason, and now the front office’s best hope of keeping him from the open market might be the franchise tag.

It wouldn’t be cheap. According to CBS Sports, the value of the tag for defensive tackles is expected to be about $21 million. But a one-year tender would give the Ravens an All-Pro player at each level of their defense in 2024 — Madubuike, inside linebacker Roquan Smith and safety Kyle Hamilton — and grant DeCosta more time to work out a long-term deal.

It would also leave DeCosta with less flexibility to retain longtime contributors such as Edwards, Zeitler, Urban and Stone. Queen is expected to leave in free agency, and Clowney and Van Noy will be tough to re-sign, but the Ravens could be rewarded with compensatory draft picks in 2025 for big-ticket departures this offseason.