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Ravens News 1/30: Lost Opportunity

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AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A Nightmare Ending to Lamar Jackson’s Dream Season

Danny Heifetz, The Ringer

The loss is even more crushing considering how well Baltimore was set up for success. Other AFC contenders wilted as their quarterbacks dropped like flies: Aaron Rodgers played just four snaps for the Jets; Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and L.A.’s Justin Herbert suffered season-ending injuries, ending their Super Bowl aspirations before the postseason; Buffalo’s and Miami’s defenses were devastated by injuries. For years, it seemed Baltimore was the snakebit team that could not stay healthy. This year, Baltimore flipped the script, preserving Jackson amid a devastated AFC quarterback landscape and earning the city its first home conference title game in more than half a century. All they had to do was get by the weakest Chiefs team of the Patrick Mahomes era, and they couldn’t do it.

NFL Playoffs Conference Championship Highlights: Notable grades and standout performances

Gordon McGuinness, PFF

S KYLE HAMILTON, BALTIMORE RAVENS

PFF Grade: 77.7

The season came to an end for the Baltimore Ravens, but the future looks bright for All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton. He was the standout player for a Ravens defense that largely shut down the Chiefs’ offense after a fast start. Hamilton finished the game with five tackles resulting in a defensive stop, including a tackle for no gain on a fourth down in the first half.

NFL playoffs: How Lions lost to 49ers and Chiefs beat Ravens

Bill Barnwell, ESPN

The Chiefs took away the Ravens’ intermediate passing game. While Jackson isn’t always a great deep passer, he has thrived in slicing teams apart in the intermediate range. On throws between 11 and 20 yards in the air this season, his 95.9 QBR was the league’s best mark. He hit about four throws for 63 yards per game in this range during the regular season.

While Spagnuolo was clearly willing to cede underneath completions to Hill and Edwards, the Chiefs did a great job of dropping into those intermediate throwing lanes, taking away the throws Jackson usually wants to hit. He had just one completion on an intermediate pass all game, and that didn’t come until the fourth quarter, when he found Nelson Agholor for a 39-yard catch-and-run. He went 1-of-4 on intermediate throws.

The Chiefs forced Jackson to throw deep downfield; while he hit two completions to Zay Flowers, his other five deep attempts were incomplete. Going 2-for-7 isn’t a bad completion rate on those deep throws, but after a Flowers touchdown on a scramble drill, the Ravens didn’t get enough out of their other big plays.

Ravens strayed from their identity against Chiefs, and paid the price

Mike Jones, The Athletic

The defeat represents a lost opportunity for the Ravens, even though the game never felt as close as the score might indicate. Jackson and his teammates lamented that they managed just one touchdown, and they’ll spend the offseason replaying costly miscues. It’s impossible to avoid wondering if a more patient approach would have better benefitted the Ravens while helping them find a better offensive flow throughout the game.

“You would like to use the saying of ‘I would love to have this back or have this play back,’ but you can’t get those plays back,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “You have to learn from them and move forward. And you know, it’s not over. Anytime you have a quarterback like Lamar, you have the opportunity to play in games like this again.”

This one will sting for a while, however, especially because of how it ended.

The 2023 season was a year of change and growth in Baltimore, and perhaps the Ravens can build on that. But Sunday, as they aimed for their ultimate goal, they strayed from their identity when pressure reached its highest point and never recovered.

49ers stunning comeback makes NFL history plus 13 other crazy stats from the AFC and NFC championship games

John Breech, CBS Sports

Lamar Jackson loses again in playoffs. With the loss to the Chiefs, the Ravens quarterback now has a career record of 2-4 in the postseason, which is tied for the fifth-worst record of all-time for any QB who has started at least five games.

Ravens can’t get over the hump. The Ravens have won 66 games over the past six seasons, which is tied for the second-most in NFL history for a team that didn’t make the Super Bowl during that six-season span. Only the Chargers, who won 67 between.

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens might want another shot with this team, but they won’t be the same in 2024

The window just closed on this specific group; that’s reality when more than 20 players — including heart-and-soul stalwarts such as Queen, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and guard Kevin Zeitler — are headed for free agency.

The Ravens will hold on to some. Perhaps they’ll use the franchise tag to keep Madubuike, who led the team with 13 sacks and 33 quarterback hits, off the open market, where he might command a $100 million deal. But Queen, who made the Pro Bowl in his fourth season playing through myriad injuries, might be too pricey given the hefty commitment the Ravens have already made to Smith.

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, one of the great one-year bargains in team history, will surely cost more next time around. He and Beckham adored their time in Baltimore, but they’ll survey their options.

The Ravens will have many questions to answer on their offensive line, where guards Zeitler and John Simpson are both headed for free agency and tackles Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses battled injuries for much of the season. Linderbaum is the only sure thing. Patrick Mekari and Daniel Faalele did well rotating in to help Stanley and Moses reach the finish line. Might one of them compete for a starting job next summer?

Harbaugh’s staff could lose Macdonald to the Seattle Seahawks or Washington Commanders, both of which still need to hire a head coach. Defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson could become a coordinator in another city.

There will be plenty of time over the next two months to assess the choices confronting DeCosta and Harbaugh. Some fans will call for changes at the top after this loss, but that’s far-fetched. Players still respond to Harbaugh throughout every season, and he morphs with the times, as he did in hiring Macdonald and Monken the past two offseasons.

The Ravens will remain a contender to be reckoned with as long as Jackson is playing quarterback and Smith and Hamilton are around to maintain the franchise’s defensive standard. But this was farewell to an exceptional version of the team.