DUNDALK — People gathered in the bar section at Dundalk American Legion Post 38 to watch the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional round.
The mood inside the post was exciting. Fans were hyped to watch their team take on the Tennessee Titans, playing for the chance to host the AFC Championship Game. That excitement turned to dread, followed by misery. The Ravens fell flat, and so did fans’ expectations.
An interception that led to a Tennessee touchdown. A failed fourth down conversion in Tennessee territory. The defense couldn’t stop Titans running back Derrick Henry. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson couldn’t hit his targets. Everything that worked for the Ravens all season failed to show up Saturday night.
“Very tough, very tough. Not to say that anybody looked past this, but the way we were on a roll, no one thought it would be over this quick. A very disappointing performance by the team. When our best was needed as a collective, we didn’t have it. But, that’s the nature of football,” defensive tackle Michael Pierce told Sean Grogan of The Cecil Whig. “They embarrassed us tonight. Anytime a team comes into your home stadium and takes it to you and breaks your 12-game winning streak, you’ve got to tip your hat to them and find a way to somewhat move on.”
Jackson threw a pass in the first quarter that was high, too high for Ravens wide receiver Mark Andrews. His fingers tipped the pass and it was intercepted. Tennessee responded by scoring the game’s first touchdown.
The mood inside Dundalk American Legion Post 38 dampened by a small degree, but the optimism was still there. It dampened a little more when the Ravens’ next drive ended because the offense failed to convert on fourth-and-1. Baltimore was 8-for-8 on fourth-and-1 during the regular season. Tennessee responded with another touchdown, a 45-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to Kalif Raymond. The score was 14-0.
Baltimore failed to convert on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter. Tennessee responded with yet another touchdown. This time, it was a pass from running back Derrick Henry to Corey Davis. It was an imitation of former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow’s famous jump-pass. Inside Donna’s Tavern, the small gathering looked discouraged and disinterested. A few people in Ravens’ jerseys played a few games of pool, not paying attention to the football game on the TV screen.
At the Seasoned Mariner, the small crowd appeared more interested, hoping their team had enough to mount a dramatic comeback. Baltimore scored a fourth quarter touchdown to make the score 28-12. Moments before that touchdown, a bartender handed out “good luck” shots to customers. The shots were a combination of grape Kool-aid and vodka.
The luck never materialized. Fans left the Seasoned Mariner resembling the Ravens players on TV – shoulders slumped, eyes on the ground, a failure to fully understand what had happened over the past three hours.
What started out as hype quickly turned into dread. Ravens fans will likely spend the coming weeks still trying to understand why things turned out the way they did, why a team that was the presumed Super Bowl favorite was dominated by the lowest remaining seed in the playoffs.
“This was the best regular season in franchise history. We have a ton of great talent here, a ton of character,” right guard Orlando Brown Jr. told Grogan. “We have a ton of guys that love working and are excited for another opportunity next year. Obviously, this is not how we wanted to end, but it happens. It’s football. It’s the playoffs.”