Ravens say no playoff confidence concerns after 'choke' criticism but time will tell

John Harbaugh and the Ravens were stunned at home against the Titans. Harbaugh is now 10-7 in the playoffs as Baltimore coach. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Last weekend was supposed to be the time when the Baltimore Ravens hosted their first AFC Championship Game and positioned themselves for a trip to the Super Bowl.

Instead, Baltimore is still dealing with the ramifications of its second straight quick playoff exit.

During Friday's end-of-season news conference, coach John Harbaugh dismissed any suggestion that he needs to repair the Ravens' mindset as a team after scathing commentary that his team "chokes" in the postseason.

"I do not see that at all," Harbaugh said. "Our guys are confident guys, and I do not think our guys take too seriously too much of what gets said, especially in the heat of the moment. Frustration, disappointment, I mean, I felt it. We all felt it after the game."

The harshest criticism following the Ravens' 28-12 divisional playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans came from inside their locker room.

Shortly after that upset loss, Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey said the Ravens' identity is "to get in the playoffs and choke." A day later, Humphrey was asked about his comment and said, "I stand by that."

Harbaugh chalked up Humphrey's hot take to youth and the heat of the moment.

"I am sure a lot of people said a lot of things after the game that they might want back," Harbaugh said. "Over the course of our lives, we say a lot of things I think that we would [want back]. Maybe we do not always understand the implications of what we are saying. We learn; that is part of what growing is. We all grow."

Humphrey came to the Ravens with high standards. In two seasons at Alabama, he won a national championship in 2015 and played for another in 2016. Then, in the NFL, he was one-and-done in the playoffs.

A first-round pick in 2017, Humphrey was selected as the Ravens' Most Valuable Player last season and made the Pro Bowl for the first time this season. Baltimore can look to extend Humphrey's contract (which goes through 2021 if a fifth-year option is picked up), and his recent comments about the team likely won't affect that.

"Marlon Humphrey, just to address that, is one of my favorite, absolute favorite, players and people," Harbaugh said. "I love this guy. He is a great player, but not just that -- his attitude, his energy, his effort, his work ethic and his coachability [are great]. You talk to Marlon about a technique, you talk to Marlon about something, he tries to do it that way. He will ask you tough questions; he wants to know. So, that is what I appreciate about him. We all learn from everything going forward, and he will handle it the right way, and we will move on."

The Ravens have been able to move past the "choke" perception in the past. Baltimore reached the playoffs in each of Harbaugh's first four seasons but failed to advance to the Super Bowl.

In 2011, the Ravens had a historic collapse in the final moments of the AFC Championship Game, when Lee Evans failed to catch a potential winning touchdown pass and Billy Cundiff missed a game-tying 32-yard field goal. A year later, Baltimore avenged that loss by going back to the AFC Championship Game in New England and beating the Patriots.

Whether this iteration of Ravens can do the same remains to be seen. Over the past two seasons, Baltimore has been one of the most dominant teams in the regular season and one of the biggest disappointments in the postseason.

In winning the AFC North in 2018 and 2019, the Ravens have compiled the NFL's second-best record overall (24-8) and second-best record at home (13-3) over the past two seasons. But Baltimore has flopped at home in the playoffs, losing to the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild-card round and to the Titans in the divisional round.

In those postseason defeats, the Ravens have been outscored in the first three quarters by a combined score of 40-9.

Has there been a common link to those playoff losses?

"If we had got into these games," Harbaugh said, "and played really well and played our kind of football, not turned the ball over and played winning football, then you could kind of say, ‘OK, well, that's just football.’ When we don't play the way we've played leading into those games, that's one you have to look at and try to figure that out.”