In life, and statistics, random events happen. Flip a coin a thousand times, and you will surely find a combination that leaves you scratching your head. For the Baltimore Ravens, one of the most successful seasons in history was cut short due to this same phenomenon.
From the start of this season, the Ravens were phenomenal. They opened their year with a 59-10 win over the Miami Dolphins, where Lamar Jackson, the soon-to-be MVP, threw for five touchdowns. From then, they transcended from a fantastic game to an all-time team. On the way to their league best 14-2 season, they shattered dozens of records. For example, Lamar Jackson posted a quarterback rating of 99.5 or higher in three separate games. No other player had done that more than once (QBR has existed since 2006).
Not only that, but Lamar’s overall year was historic as well. When it was all said and done, Jackson’s season ended as the sixth best for a quarterback in the last 13 years. The only names above him? Brady, Rodgers, Brees and Peyton Manning. That is elite company.
This was not just the Lamar Jackson show, however. The overall team was historic as well. In Defense-Adjusted Value over Average (DVOA), the 2019 Ravens ranked as the seventh best team in NFL history since 1985. In other words, they were better than over 99% of all NFL teams over the past 34 years.
They were on pace for domination. DVOA gave the Ravens a 40% chance to win the Super Bowl. ESPN gave them a greater than 80% chance to make it to the AFC Championship. This team was supposed to continue their domination.
Nevertheless, as we all know, this was not the case. The Tennessee Titans came to Baltimore with a purpose, and walked out of there with a convincing victory. This single game showed us everything we love — and everything we hate — about football.
Like it or not, the Titans won that game not just by skill, but on the back of luck as well. First, let's look at receiving. The Titans’ receiving core came to play, and did not drop a single pass. As for the Ravens, they dropped a catchable pass on seven different occasions. In other words, one out of every four incompletions for the Ravens were due to drops. Additionally, turnovers and fourth down conversions are both highly variable stats. The Titans did not turn the ball over once, nor did they attempt a fourth down conversion. The Ravens, on the other hand, had three turnovers and went 0-4 on fourth down conversions.
Lastly, the Ravens offense dealt with some of the worst field position luck in recent memory. For example, they had drives that ended at the Titans’ 36, 31, 31, 21, 18, 16, 15 and four yard line. Despite all this, they finished with 12 points.
These high variable statistics make a massive impact on the outcome of the football game. It can be clearly argued that without a few lucky bounces, this game would’ve gone quite differently. The Ravens had over 200 more total yards and nearly twice as many first downs as the Titans, but still lost. You may be thinking, “But Max, they racked up those stats once the game was decided.”
That statement is not wrong, but it is not right either. Even if we look at the stats at the end of the first half (when it was still a one score game) the Ravens had more passing yards, rushing yards, total yards and first downs. The Ravens played better than the Titans for the majority of the game, but the Titans took advantage of high impact plays, such as turnovers, to ultimately win the game.
I am not trying to say the Titans did not deserve to win. Someone had to make those fourth down stops, and someone had to let the Ravens get open enough to make all those drops. Luckily for Tennessee, they capitalized on those opportunities, and earned the victory.
And that, in a nutshell, is the love-hate relationship so many of us have with the game of football. We hate the fact that a historic team’s season can vanish due to a couple bad plays. We hate seeing our own team fall victim to bad refs, tipped balls, missed calls and everything else.
But, despite all that, we all love a good upset. There is no better feeling than when your favorite team shocks the world, and there is no better sport for that than the NFL. We may not have been able to see the Chiefs face off against the Ravens. We may not have been able to see a historic team finish their mission. Nevertheless, we did witness sports history, great upsets and upset fans everywhere. And with the 2019 season coming to a close, I think that is just fine with me.
Max Thompson is a freshman majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached email@example.com. Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter for high-quality NFL analysis!
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