Was Alfred Lord Tennyson right nearly two centuries ago when he queried if it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
Or, posited in a 21st century NFL context, was the joy of the Ravens’ 14-2 season – the best in franchise history – worth the anguish that settled over Baltimore late Saturday night in the wake of the 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the divisional playoffs?
Make no mistake: This wasn’t just another game. This was for an opportunity for a Baltimore team to host the AFC championship game, the prelude to the Super Bowl, for the first time in 39 years.
It would have been the sprinkles, if you will, on a sundae that the 2019 season became, with the whipped cream being winning the AFC and the cherry capturing the world championship next month in Miami.
The stage was certainly set for the Ravens to dazzle a national television audience in general and the football world in particular with the kind of play that Charm City fans have come to expect through this magical run.
In that vein, it would also have been a chance to showcase quarterback Lamar Jackson, the guy with the cape, the wand and the hat full of wonder.
Instead, these Ravens joined the 1969 and 71 Orioles, the 1969 Colts and the 2006 Ravens as the biggest disappointments in Baltimore single season sports history, teams that walked right up to the precipice of glory, only to ultimately fail.
And it would be patently unfair to lay the responsibility for Saturday’s failure entirely on Jackson’s shoulders. Lord knows there’s enough blame to go around.
Let’s start with a defense that allowed Titans running back Derrick Henry to run roughshod through them to the tune of 195 yards, as well as throw for a touchdown.
True, Henry led the league in rushing, but teams with championship aspirations don’t give up that kind of yardage in a playoff game.
Then, let’s move to coach John Harbaugh, who, after pushing nearly all the right buttons throughout the regular season, picked the postseason to discombobulate.
To wit, his decision to try for two fourth down conversions, when it would have been prudent to punt in one instance and kick a field goal in the other. The Titans scored touchdowns after both decisions, placing the Ravens in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
Jackson, who will probably win the league’s Most Valuable Player trophy on Super Bowl Eve, was terrific, by most numbers, throwing for 365 yards and running for 143 yards, just nine off his season high.
However, he threw two costly interceptions and fumbled, all in key situations. In all, Jackson picked a bad night to revert to being 23-years-old, when the Ravens needed him to be a bit more mature.
It’s possible that this loss and last year’s home loss to the Chargers will be just blips on the road to a string of titles and trophies for the team and Jackson.
Or this may be seen as the last, best chance for this flock of Ravens to be special. Alas, we’ll have to wait for another year to find out which is right.
And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.
Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.