The Pittsburgh Steelers took it on the chin Saturday night, watching their season end on their home field at the hands of their archrival with their top running back in street clothes.
Complementing a front seven that dominated the line of scrimmage, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco picked the Steelers' overmatched secondary apart, leading six scoring drives without a punt after the opening possession.
"We just got beat tonight," coach Mike Tomlin conceded after the game. "We didn't make enough critical plays. ... They had more splash plays."
The Steelers encountered a season-long problem in the first half, moving the ball at will only to settle for field goals as drives stalled in the red zone.
Those missed opportunities came back to haunt them later in the game, as did All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell's absence due to a hyperextended knee.
Between the defensive pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, ill-timed penalties and the inability of stand-in tailbacks Ben Tate and Josh Harris to make plays, the Steelers' six second-half possessions ended in a pair of punts, three turnovers and just one score.
The problems weren't limited to offense. Dick LeBeau's defense couldn't get off the field on key third downs, leading to 30 Ravens points on their first eight possessions.
Owen Daniels exploited free-agent bust Mike Mitchell, Torrey Smith beat Antwon Blake for a pair of big third-down plays and Steve Smith torched Brice McCain for his fourth career 100-yard playoff performance.
It's an especially painful loss for a short-handed team that had reason to believe they possessed the stronger roster entering the postseason.
With Roethlisberger, Bell and Antonio Brown comprising the NFL's best skill-position nucleus and rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant flashing star potential, the Steelers' offense is loaded for another playoff run next season.
The front office will spend the offseason targeting upgrades for an aging secondary and a front seven that too often lacked backbone.
If general manager Kevin Colbert's next draft class bears as much fruit as the past two, Pittsburgh will be battling Baltimore for the AFC North title again in 2015.