Ravens understand significance of Baltimore hosting AFC championship

BALTIMORE — It has been 53 years since the city of Baltimore hosted an AFC Championship Game.

That’s a surprising statistic considering the Ravens have won a pair of Super Bowls and seven AFC North crowns since the first AFC Championship Game, which was won by the then-Baltimore Colts against the then-Oakland Raiders.

The Ravens have been road warriors in the postseason. This year, they have the home-field advantage as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. On Saturday, they dominated the Houston Texans in the second half and won, 34-10, to advance to the championship game against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Many of the current Ravens were not aware that it has been so long since Baltimore hosted a championship game. That makes the matchup against the Chiefs on Sunday at 3 p.m. even more special.

“That’s crazy,” outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said when told about the city hosting a title game. “I guess we’re all in the same boat. We all want that special thing around here, and I’m just glad to be a part of it and chasing it with this group of guys together. So, shoutout to the squad.”

The last AFC Championship Game in Baltimore was on January 3rd, 1971. It marks the longest gap for a city to host a conference championship game. The Colts, who were led by Johnny Unitas, defeated the Raiders, 27-17, to advance to Super Bowl V, where they defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13.

The Ravens are looking for similar success on Sunday, but they’re not looking beyond the challenge of facing the Chiefs.

“I’m not even thinking about the Super Bowl until we handle business,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said.  

The Ravens were also the No. 1 seed in the 2019 playoffs but were upset by the Tennessee Titans, 28-12, in the divisional round.

Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely (80) celebrates with quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Houston Texans in the AFC divisional round game. By Mitch Stringer, USA Today Sports

After earning that top seed again this year, the Ravens were determined to take advantage of it. Despite temperatures in the low-20s, M&T Bank Stadium was loud, and it seemed to affect the Texans, who were flagged 11 times for 70 yards, including five false starts, one delay of game, and one encroachment penalty.

The players appreciated the support.

“I love this city. This team, we love this city,” said running back Justice Hill, who ran for a career-high 66 yards against Houston. “We just want to be able to provide the excitement for the city. They show up. No matter if it’s a road game or a home game, they’re going to always show up for us, and they’re going to cheer their butts off. So, we’re going to continue to win for those guys.”

The Ravens and Baltimore will host pep rallies and events throughout the week to build excitement for Sunday’s game. The players understand the significance of those events and what it means to play for a trip to the Super Bowl in front of the home fans.

“It’s crazy … but the city deserves it,” cornerback Brandon Stephens said. “We’re playing for the city. Baltimore deserves it. But I’m excited. I’m excited.”

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