You can blame the coaches, the players and the decision-making. The at the worst possible time of year.
The Ravens just picked the wrong day to have a bad game.
If they had played as poorly as they did Saturday night against the Cincinnati Bengals or the Washington Redskins, they might have won, but instead they lost, 28-12, to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC divisional round.
In the days since the train wreck, there has been a lot of blame, most of it directed at coach John Harbaugh and his staff.
I can’t defend Harbaugh or the decision by his offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, to switch the Ravens from a running team to the pass-happy San Diego Chargers of the 1980’s.
The Ravens were clearly outcoached. But there is more to the Ravens’ defeat than just coaching errors.
In sports, sometimes the best team doesn’t always win a one-game playoff or a championship series. For those of us old enough to remember, we can go back to 1969, when the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, or when the New York Mets beat the Orioles in the 1969 World Series, four games to one.
In the Colts’ loss to the Jets, Baltimore was favored by 18 points, but New York pulled off what many still consider the greatest upset in NFL history. The Ravens entered Saturday’s game as the most balanced team in the league and were favored by as many as 10 points by some sportsbooks.
And they fell apart in the great meltdown.
Did history repeat itself nearly 50 years later?
By midday Sunday, both Harbaugh and Roman had to be asking themselves why they had abandoned the run so quickly. The Ravens had the best rushing attack in league history, yet halfbacks Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards carried the ball a combined nine times for 42 yards.
Ingram had a calf injury and his contributions were going to be limited, but Edwards gained 19 yards on his first carry. Then, poof, he disappeared. The Ravens defended him better than the Titans.
I’ve seen this before. Roman did the same thing earlier in the year once the Ravens fell behind against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was clear that the Ravens were going to go pass-happy to open the third quarter Saturday despite only trailing 14-6 at halftime. In the second half, quarterback Lamar Jackson threw 37 passes compared with 22 in the first.
We can blame Roman, but Harbaugh is just as guilty. It’s his team and he could have ordered Roman to stop tossing the ball all over M&T Bank Stadium. Worse yet, Harbaugh was in a similar situation a year ago and waited too long to turn Jackson loose or insert quarterback Joe
Ravens coach John Harbaugh reacts after a Titans touchdown in the third quarter Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens abandoned the run in favor of more passing.