If you took a quick glance at the box score of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, then it would seem like Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers had an excellent afternoon. After all, he did haul in five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
But if you dig deeper, you’ll find a nightmare drive by the rookie that arguably killed Baltimore’s chances at winning this game.
Down by 10 late in the third quarter, the sputtering Ravens needed a spark and got it when Lamar Jackson hit Flowers on a 54-yard bomb that put them deep into Chiefs territory. However, he shoved Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and the ensuing taunting penalty pushed Baltimore out of the red zone.
Unfortunate loss of composure there, but he’d make it up on a 14-yard reception two plays later. On 2nd and 8 from the nine, the rookie caught another pass on an angle route and was seemingly going to punch in a touchdown to bring the Ravens to within a score. However, he didn’t follow the “don’t dive for the end zone” rule of thumb and what happened next cost his team severely.
And to add injury to insult following the fumble, he sliced his hand open while banging in on the bench out of frustration. He would not catch another pass for the rest of the contest.
Flowers completely self destructed in just a handful of minutes and the Ravens’ Super Bowl hopes were snuffed out as a result. Sure, they still had opportunities to make things happen in the fourth quarter, but that nightmarish sequence of events zapped the life out of M&T Bank Stadium. And when you’re facing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, you have to be borderline perfect as a 10-point deficit can feel like a 30-point deficit.
Flowers is already taking a brunt of criticism for his meltdown in that key spot and that third-quarter drive will haunt him all offseason. However, he should bounce back.
As a first-round selection, the speedy rookie from Boston College played a vital role by leading the team in receiving with 77 catches for 858 yards and five touchdowns. The Ravens had been criticized for not providing Lamar Jackson adequate receiver options in recent years and they hit on one by drafting Flowers, who had drawn comparisons to Tyreek Hill heading into last year’s draft. And even after Sunday’s meltdown, his rapport with Jackson is bound to only get stronger moving forward.
That drive is just an early mishap for a young receiver who has proven that he can produce at a high level in the NFL. If the Ravens are back in the AFC title game one year from now, then there’s a good chance that Flowers will have played a strong role in them getting there.