About six hours later, when Lamar Jackson's 50th pass of the night was knocked out 4:27 by Mark Andrews on a fourth and fifth from the 16-yard line of the Tennessee Titans, the place began to empty as quickly as it looked the stadium looked about 35 miles south of here most of the past season.
This team's season ended with a 3:13 record and the owner finally fired his alter ego as team president. The season of this team shouldn't end here. It was supposed to end in South Florida, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell presented the Vince Lombardi trophy to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.
After Jackson – the league's alleged MVP – made two interceptions and lost a fumble, the sixth-occupied titans left Baltimore with a stunning 28-12 win in a game that wasn't really that tight.
Maybe it was the weather – 69 degrees for 8.15pm. Start in January. Maybe it was rust – Jackson and a number of starters hadn't been annoyed since December 22nd. Perhaps it was an excellent defense program by Titan Defense Coordinator Dean Pees, who once worked here in Baltimore. The titans gave up huge yard goods all night – the ravens stumbled once – but only one landing. Or maybe it was all that, and a surprisingly human feat by Jackson, who looked anything but during the winning streak of 12 games, that allowed the Ravens to end season 14-2 and secure first place in the AFC.
"You won football in a difficult environment," said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh of the titans. "We didn't play winning football. That will be with us for a long time."
There is no doubt about that. The Ravens – with the exception of an injury to Jackson – are expected to be back in the playoffs in a year. Until then, this loss will be felt. And maybe even afterwards.
"We defeated ourselves," said Jackson, who went into midfield after the final whistle and hugged and congratulated every Titan he encountered. "I had sales and it hurt. We fought, we moved the ball, but we didn't finish when we had to. "
Jackson's numbers reflect this. He was responsible for more than 500 meters of the offense – 365 through the air, 143 on the ground – but the gaudy numbers said nothing about his story. Three sales – two interceptions and one fumble – made it. The first interception was with a throw that sailed on Jackson and went out of Andrews hands. About four minutes later, the titans turned it into a touchdown.
Another interception occurred in the third quarter with a poorly thrown ball that halted a Ravens ride deep in the Tennessee area. There was also fumbling when he was released shortly after the titans took a 21-6 lead. That also led to a score.
And two quarters and one were just as crucial when Jackson was stopped. The Ravens had tried four and eight times this season. They had picked up the first eight times.
One could argue that one night that was supposed to be the Baltimore quarterback was actually the Tennessee quarterback. Ryan Tannehill's stats weren't revealing – he threw for 88 yards and hurried for another 13, but he was released only once and had a quarterback rating of 109.2 for the night. Jackson's was 63.2
Tannehill took over the team 3: 3 as Titans quarterback after Marcus Mariota had stalled in a 0: 16 loss to the Denver Broncos. The No. 1 Miami Dolphins in 2012 (eighth overall), his seven years in Miami, were ultimately a disappointment, and he was exchanged for a late round insurance for Mariota last season. In fact, Saturday night was his first playoff start.
It was his second for Jackson. And his playoff record is now 0-2, including his first-round exit from last season against the Los Angeles Chargers, a defeat in which Jackson played three-quarters of ineffective football before a fourth-quarter rally was too short came. The fourth quarter on Saturday evening felt incredibly similar.
The Ravens spent this postseason building their team around Jackson. Gambling paid off – it dominated MVP entertainment in the off-season, and this stadium, once littered with purple Ray Lewis No. 52 jerseys and Joe Flacco No. 5 jerseys, became a sea of No. 8 jerseys with "Jackson" on the back.
Raven's fans had gotten used to heroics from number 8 this season. The heroic deeds came from the visitors on Saturday evening. When Derrick Henry, who had hit Baltimore in a hurry for 195 meters all night, threw a jump pass to Corey Davis in the middle of the third quarter to bring the titans to 21: 6, Jackson fingered the next game in the first game. Tannehill met one of them at the end of the trip and practically the Ravens.
Shortly thereafter, the Ravens posted a notice on the scoreboard that fans should drive home safely – not at the end of the fourth quarter, but at the end of the third.
It shouldn't end like this – not again – not after such an exciting and remarkable regular season. Jackson shrugged when asked how long it would take to overcome this loss. "I don't know," he said. "I hate to lose. But. we have to keep going. We have to improve for next year. "