Ravens still bitter about AFC title-game loss, so they confront it

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Forgive but don’t forget, John Harbaugh said about his team’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game four months ago.

Well, maybe don’t forgive either, the Baltimore Ravens head coach clarified while smiling. But definitely don’t forget the 17-10 defeat that sent the Chiefs to the Super Bowl and the Ravens home.

‘We don’t forget for sure – and try to improve,’ Harbaugh said Wednesday. ‘It’s always going to be part of (us).’

The Ravens drew the Chiefs in the NFL’s opening game of the 2024 regular season. For Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2023 league MVP who was 20-for-37 with a touchdown, interception and fumble against the Chiefs, it didn’t matter who the Ravens had on the schedule. He knows that true revenge is only possible in the postseason.

‘Us beating them in the regular season doesn’t really do anything,’ Jackson said. ‘It just helps us keep stacking up wins to hopefully make it to the playoffs – if anything to try to get in that same position again and hopefully be successful.

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‘It really doesn’t matter who we play (in the) first game. Obviously it’s the Chiefs, but I really didn’t care.’

The Ravens scored their lone touchdown of the championship game in the first quarter and managed a fourth-quarter field goal the rest of the way. Baltimore’s defense kept Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs off the board in the second half.

‘We just have to finish,’ Jackson said. ‘We have to find a way to move the ball in the right direction and put points on the board because our defense did their thing the whole night.’

Asked how long it took him to move on from the title-game loss, Jackson replied ‘now.’ The players still discuss the loss among themselves.

‘I believe it hurts more losing before the Super Bowl than actually being a part of it, because we worked so hard, 17 weeks, plus the (postseason), and we get to a game away and lose,’ Jackson said.

On Thursday, offensive coordinator Todd Monken said the Ravens’ ground game wasn’t good enough against the Chiefs. They moved the ball into the red zone in the second half, but turnovers felled Baltimore.

‘We got to attack them the way we plan to attack them and I got to do a better job. That’s the way it is,’ Monken told reporters. ‘That’s what I’m paid to do. And that is to do it against the best.”

Wide receiver Zay Flowers still thinks about the game.

‘Honestly, I still haven’t gotten over it,’ he said.

Harbaugh, Jackson and the rest of the locker room took a similar view a few months ago when questions came about the Ravens avoiding an upset at home in the divisional round following a wild-card bye. The disappointment that came with their loss to the Tennessee Titans in the 2019 playoffs was a motivating factor, and they throttled the Houston Texans in the 2023 divisional a week before falling to the Chiefs.

For Harbaugh, his players internalizing that loss to this extent is not a problem.

‘What we’re talking about is confronting everything that has to do with us being the very best we can be as a football team and as an individual player,’ Harbaugh said. ‘So, if that’s part of the confrontation, ‘Let’s go, man. Let’s talk about it, and let’s get better, and let’s find a way to beat those guys.’ ‘

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