Several Ravens players shook off some of the struggles the team experienced over the course of the season, saying they didn’t want to “peak” too early.
It was a message that was relayed to some of the younger players.
“When I talk to the rookies in our room, I just kind of let them know the importance of not peaking too early,” offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. said. “I feel like that was something I kind of dealt with as a younger player, was peaking too early throughout the week or throughout gameday. My words to them are literally just try to keep calm.
“Do what you got to do to, I guess you can say, stay sane and just maintain your composure.”
It makes sense since teams want to be playing their best football heading into the postseason.
Perhaps the Ravens peaked too early last season amid their 12-game winning streak, especially after crashing out of the playoffs against the Titans.
Baltimore gets a third shot at Tennessee in this year’s Wildcard round after also losing to the Titans in Week 11 at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens are riding a five-game winning streak and are one of the hottest teams entering the postseason.
Did the team learn its lesson about the importance of starting fast, protecting the football, and playing hard for four quarters in the past two playoff disappointments?
“Well, we’re playing our best football of the year, for sure,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Whether we’re peaking or not remains to be seen. So, we’ll see. That’s just kind of a phrase that we use. Really, what it means is keep your poise, keep your wits and understand what’s required when – that’s part of what we talk about.”
Quarterback Lamar Jackson has taken the brunt of the criticism for the Ravens’ recent playoff failures. After an uneven start to the season, Jackson has been dominant.
Over the past five games, Jackson has thrown for 809 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Jackson has run for 430 yards with another four scores.
In last year’s Divisonal playoff game, Jackson managed 508 total yards, but most were late in the game in the Titans’ dominant 28-12 victory.
Jackson threw for 186 yards with a touchdown and interception and ran for 51 yards in Tennessee’s 30-24 Week 11 overtime victory.
The entire team is looking for a better performance this time against the Titans.
“Our guys are dialed in,” Jackson said. “We didn’t win a Super Bowl; we’re trying to get there. And our job is to focus on the task at hand, like I always say, and that’s what we’re doing here. Nobody is peaking, or nobody feels like we’ve done anything, because we’re still fighting. We’ve got to keep that focus going. We can’t go to getting out of our element.”
The key for the Ravens will be stopping Tennessee running back Derrick Henry, who led the NFL with 2,027 yards.
Henry has also been the difference in the Titans’ past two victories over the Ravens.
He ran for 195 yards and threw a three-yard touchdown pass in last year’s playoff victory. In Week 11, Henry had a 29-yard touchdown with 5:21 left in overtime that provided a 30-24 victory. Henry finished with 133 yards rushing.
The Ravens will face an onslaught of questions this week about stopping Henry. If they are able to contain him, Baltimore should be in a position to win the game.
“We’re going to try to play our best defensive football game,” Harbaugh said. “One play at a time, we’re going to try to make every play the best play we can play. We’re not conceding anything at any play. If and when they make plays, then you bounce back, and you play the next play. So, that’s it, really. It’s just that simple.
“The big picture-type of observations are left for others; we have to play the plays and the game, come up with the gameplan and stuff like that. So, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”