As the Ravens approached what we all thought would be their peak, they stumbled and tumbled in January, never to reach the mountaintop.
As it turns out, it was the other peak -- a peek -- that kept them from reaching their full potential.
That's what Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said Tuesday, just hours after he'd been announced as Madden's newest cover athlete. Baltimore, much like its AFC North counterpart Pittsburgh did a few years earlier, got caught "peeking ahead" to the AFC Championship Game and never made it there.
"That's what happened in the playoffs, and we end up losing to the team people had us favored over," Jackson said during an appearance on Complex's Load Management podcast. "It's any given Sunday. You can't underestimate no team, no opponent and that's what we did.
"So I'm looking forward to this 2020 season playing the Browns first. ... Don't underestimate your opponents. They caught us by surprise. That's all it was."
It's coincidental that Jackson mentioned the Browns, a team that caught Baltimore by surprise in a 41-20 shellacking of the Ravens in Week 4. The defeat accounted for one half of Baltimore's regular-season losses and was, in fact, the Ravens' last defeat until they met the Titans in the Divisional Round. The Titans, meanwhile, had made their hay catching opponents by surprise, going from a rudderless 2-4 squad after six weeks to a red-hot playoff contender to a participant in the AFC Championship Game.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming after the Titans hung 43 points on those same Browns in Cleveland to start the season, or when they outlasted the league darling Chiefs in Week 10, or when they rode that victory to a 6-2 finish to the regular season and a wild card berth.
Or maybe their upset win over the Patriots in Foxborough the week prior should have opened Baltimore's eyes.
It didn't, though, and Jackson had his worst outing since that Week 4 loss, accounting for three turnovers in a defeat that left Baltimore and the rest of the NFL stunned. Jackson is out to ensure that doesn't happen again in 2020, as his Ravens appear even better positioned to make a serious run at a title. It's tough to improve on 14-2, but that will be the goal of Jackson's Ravens -- before they plan to run roughshod through the postseason. There will be no peeking in 2020.