The Ravens certainly didn’t need any bulletin board material in the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
There was enough on the line.
The Ravens simply needed a victory to earn a spot in the playoffs for a third consecutive year. In the days leading up to the game, Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt was apparently overconfident.
After the NFL Network posted a stat about the Ravens the playoff chances on Twitter, Pratt responded, “Nope over for them.”
Nope over for them
— Germaine Pratt (@GermainePratt7) January 1, 2021
Considering the Ravens could have made the postseason with a loss under various scenarios, it was not a wise choice of words.
It looked even more ill-advised after the Ravens completely dismantled Cincinnati 38-3 for a season sweep and postseason berth.
“No comment on that,” running back J.K. Dobbins said about Pratt’s comments. “We just let those guys do all the talking on the internet and we go play ball.”
Dobbins played a key role in helping the Ravens run for a franchise-record 404 yards. He finished with 160 yards on 13 carries with a pair of scores. He finished the regular season with nine touchdowns, the most ever by a Ravens rookie.
Lamar Jackson also became the first quarterback in NFL history to have a pair of 1,000 yard rushing seasons.
Baltimore is the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs.
“Our team – we knew what was at stake for us,” Jackson said. “There was a lot of focus going, all phases just played their butts off, and we had a little help from our fans. Flock Nation traveled out here to Cincinnati and gave us some noise for the offense out there, and we just pulled out the victory.
“We’ve still got room for improvement. There were some little things out there; we couldn’t finish drives here and there, but we got the job done, and that’s all that matters.”
The Ravens players and coaches shrugged off some midseason struggles, saying they didn’t want to peak too early. They did pick a critical time to be playing their best football. The Ravens ran through the Bengals, who were determined to stop that power attack by stacking the box.
Now, the Ravens will look to get a measure of revenge against the Tennessee Titans, who knocked them out of the postseason last season and came away with a 30-24 overtime victory in Week 11.
Jackson is in his third year and he’s looking to win the first playoff game of his young career. He’ll be hearing those questions throughout the week, but Jackson has performed at a high level over the final stretch of the season and can carry that momentum into the playoffs.
It’s been a challenging year for the Ravens and the rest of the NFL. The Ravens were hit especially hard by COVID-19 and had more than 20 players unavailable at the midpoint of the season.
Coach John Harbaugh has to get a lot of credit for keeping the team together through that tumultuous stretch. Harbaugh is now the 10th NFL coach to reach nine postseason berths in his first 13 seasons.
The key for the Ravens is to take the next step in the Jackson era and make a deep run. The Ravens obviously have the talent to put two straight seasons of playoff frustration behind them.
A victory over Tennessee would be even sweeter, not that the Ravens are going to make that type of statement.
“It’s not about them; it’s about us. It really doesn’t matter who we play,” Jackson said. “We’re going to go in there with the same mentality; just focus on our assignment and just try to come out with a ‘W.’ But if we play them, then that’s a good thing, as well. It really doesn’t matter, but I’ll be grateful for whoever we play. I’m just happy we made the playoffs.”