This was the Ravens’ mantra all season, all week and, most importantly, all day on Sunday when they outlasted the Titans, their nemeses, 20-13, in the AFC wild-card playoff round in Nashville.
That word “finish’’ was printed on Ravens T-shirts. It was referenced in team meetings. Ravens coach John Harbaugh did everything short of bringing Tony Robbins in for a motivational speech to remind his players of that mission.
The Ravens finished on Sunday. They finished a slugfest of a game in which they fell behind 10-0 and then held onto the 17-10 lead they took to survive and advance.
Now they’ll play in next weekend’s divisional round, either at Kansas City or Buffalo, pending the outcome of Sunday’s late game between the Browns and Steelers. A Steelers win and the Ravens (12-5) play the Chiefs in Kansas City. A Browns win and the Ravens will travel to Buffalo to play the Bills.
Of most immediate importance, though, the Ravens won their first playoff game since 2014.
“Right now, for me, this is the best win ever,’’ Harbaugh said.
Coming from a coach who’s won a Super Bowl and taken the Ravens to the playoffs in nine of his 13 years in Baltimore, those were strong words.
“Not just because of what was at stake, but because it had so much meaning for our guys and the things that we’ve been through together this year, and how our guys have responded, how our leaders have led,’’ Harbaugh said. “This may be the best win I’ve ever been associated with.’’
Defensively, the Ravens were brilliant, holding the Titans’ 2,000-yard running back Derrick Henry to 40 yards on 18 carries. Henry rushed for 195 yards in the Titans’ playoff win over the Ravens last year and he ran for 133 yards, including the game-winning 29-yard TD run in overtime, in November.
Offensively, the Ravens had quarterback Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP and one of the most dynamic players in the league.
Jackson, who entered the day 0-2 in playoff games, shook off a slow start and finished 17 of 24 passing for 179 yards and an INT and he rushed for 136 yards, including an electric 48-yard TD, on 16 carries.
The Ravens rolled up 401 yards of offense to 209 for the Titans. They out-rushed the Titans 236-31.
“We finished,’’ Jackson said after the game. “We finished. We finally finished.’’
The Ravens, too, exacted some delicious revenge in the process.
It was the Titans who knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs last season as 10-point underdogs, rendering a 14-2 Ravens’ regular season meaningless.
It, too, was the Titans erasing a 21-10 lead in November to win 30-24 in overtime in Baltimore, where Tennessee players danced on the Ravens’ logo at midfield.
So, when the Ravens’ Marcus Peters intercepted Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 1:50 remaining in the game, he sprinted to the Titans’ midfield logo, spun the football on it and danced on it with the rest of his defensive teammates.
“I felt like it was a good time to go ahead and do that, so we did it,’’ Ravens defensive tackle Derek Wolfe said. “It wasn’t a disrespect thing. It was like a team-unity thing. We accomplished something as a team so we went out there and took a little bit of revenge, I guess.’’
When the game was over, Jackson, instead of staying on the field for customary postgame handshakes with the opponent, sprinted off the field, through the tunnel and into the Baltimore locker room, where he was later awarded the game ball by Harbaugh.
Jackson acknowledged his disdain for what he felt was disrespect on the part of the Titans in November and said, “There was no reason for us to shake hands.’’
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said, “We won the division, hosted a home playoff game. Today it wasn’t good enough.’’
As for the Ravens, they have bigger plans than simply winning their first playoff game in six years.
“If we win a Super Bowl,’’ Wolfe said, “we’ll be eternal.’’