We know there’s a good chance you might suddenly be paying attention to Sunday’s AFC championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs because you’re a Taylor Swift fan, and Taylor Swift is now a Chiefs fan.
Welcome. It’s great to have you. If you’re curious to learn more about the Ravens, we got you.
Football fans, we know this may all be a little confusing. But don’t worry, we’ve got you, too.
We’ll guide you through the course of the season with … yes, you guessed it … Taylor Swift songs, lyrics and signifiers.
First, let’s tackle the key moments of the team’s 13-4 regular season.
Let’s set the stage. The Ravens started the year 3-1 with wins against the Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. But in that span they faced a rookie making his NFL debut (Houston’s C.J. Stroud), a hobbled star (Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow) and a backup (Cleveland’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson).
Their sole loss was a baffling game against another backup, Indianapolis’ Gardner Minshew II.
“Wait, the worst is yet to come, oh, no,” as Swift sings on “Blank Space.” “Screaming, crying, perfect storms.”
Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded fifth game.
Week 5: Ravens lose to the Steelers 17-10
Swifties comparison: The fifth song
Fans started to notice the fifth song of every album packed a certain emotional punch. At first it was coincidental, then Swift began to intentionally lean into the fan theory. “So because you noticed this, I kind of started to put the songs that were really honest, emotional, vulnerable, and personal as track five,” she said during an Instagram Live before the release of “Lover.”
It’s no secret the Ravens and Steelers have bad blood. Entering the Week 5 matchup against its division rival at Pittsburgh’s Acrisure Stadium, Baltimore was in good shape, and a win against the offensively challenged Steelers would have solidified its standing before a trip abroad and a long stretch of tough opponents.
Instead, the Ravens had a treacherous day on offense with five dropped passes, turning what appeared to be a sure win into a morale boost for the hated Steelers.
“It just felt like, at times, there was just too many things going wrong,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “It’s almost like a sleeping giant, man. We need to wake up.”
This 17-10 loss was a gut check, a reason for doubt after all the promise the Ravens had shown to this point. To borrow and tweak a couplet from the devastating fifth track “Dear John” (Harbaugh?) off “Speak Now,” “Don’t you think the season was too young to be messed with?/The girl in the dress cried the whole way home/I should’ve known.”
Week 6: Ravens beat the Titans 24-16
Swifties comparison: ‘London Boy’
So I guess all the rumors are true (Yeah)/You know I love a London boy (Oh)/Boy (Oh), I fancy you
The Ravens traveled to London, a site of previous horrors they knew all too well, and traded days at the team facility in Owings Mills for “high tea, stories from uni, and the West End.” As well as, you know, practices at the Tottenham Hotspur’s facility and youth clinics hosted by the NFL.
Harbaugh and his staff realized they may have erred in arriving so late for their 2017 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They practically arrived the very first night before kickoff, and subsequently sleepwalked through a 44-7 shellacking. “We just got there so close to the game, I feel like we were just trying to catch up on sleep the whole time,” defensive lineman Brent Urban said before this year’s trip.
Week 7-9: Ravens run through three NFC foes
Swifties comparison: ‘Lavender Haze’
I feel/The lavender haze creepin’ up on me/Surreal
Coming off the London trip, the Ravens get hot, reeling off three wins in a row against NFC teams, including two games at M&T Bank Stadium against two of the top teams in the conference, the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks. With the win against Seattle, then the leaders of the NFC West, to finish off the trifecta, the Ravens establish themselves as Super Bowl favorites.
The Ravens’ offense smothers opponents in this stretch, putting up 38, 31 and 37 points. As for the defense, it engulfs the Lions and Seahawks, yielding nine total points.
Week 11: Ravens beat Bengals on ‘Thursday Night Football,’ lose Mark Andrews to devastating injury
Swifties comparison: ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’
So why’d you have to rain on my parade?/I’m shaking my head and locking the gates
After a head-scratching loss to the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore had a short week to prepare for Burrow and the Bengals. The offense was moving the ball well on the first drive when tight end Mark Andrews caught a pass inside the 5-yard line, and suddenly there’s trouble, trouble, trouble. Brought down on a hip-drop tackle by Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson, Andrews is helped off the field with an ankle injury that is feared to be season-ending.
The Ravens still win convincingly, 34-20. The Bengals, meanwhile, lose Burrow for the rest of the season with a wrist injury.
Still, the sight of one of Lamar Jackson’s favorite receivers going down has fans thinking about how everything has changed after everyone was “feelin’ so Gatsby” for most of the season.
Week 14: Tylan Wallace walks it off in overtime against the Rams, 37-31
Swifties comparison: ‘Sparks Fly’
Drop everything now, meet me in the pouring rain/Kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain
A ho-hum victory in Week 12 against the Chargers is followed with a bye week for rest in Week 13.
Thirteen. The number is key in Swift lore. She was born on Dec. 13 and has adopted 13 as a lucky number, painting it on her hand before shows and hiding it in her music videos. “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first No. 1 song had a 13-second intro,” she told MTV in 2009. “Every time I’ve won an award, I’ve been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter.”
Who was among those absent for the Week 14 game against the Rams? Wide receiver and returner Devin Duvernay. What number does he wear? Thirteen, of course.
At the end of regulation in a back-and-forth rain-soaked game, it was Duvernay’s replacement, Tylan Wallace, who delivered the deciding play in overtime, a 76-yard punt return for a walk-off touchdown.
Kicker Justin Tucker described the scene: “The sky was gray-green, kind of a light rain coming down sideways. The light’s shining through, and you just see Tylan running down the sidelines. … I lost all control of my body as I just ran down the field to celebrate.”
As did most of the Ravens’ bench. What a way to reach closure.
Weeks 15-17: A brilliant run of dominance against the Jaguars, 49ers and Dolphins
Swifties comparison: ‘Sweeter Than Fiction’
There you’ll stand, 10 feet tall/I will say, “I knew it all along”/Your eyes, wider than distance/This life is sweeter than fiction
A “Sunday Night Football” showdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars? Baltimore was in complete control.
A Christmas night matchup against the San Francisco 49ers billed as both Game of the Year and potential Super Bowl preview? Jackson was Superman, throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns while adding a team-high 45 yards on the ground in the 33-19 win.
And the return to Baltimore for the date with the high-flying Miami Dolphins offense? It was perhaps the best day for the Ravens. Jackson went 18-for-21 for 321 yards and five touchdowns in the 56-19 beatdown, registering the third perfect passer rating of 158.3 of his career. Baltimore secured the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
The Ravens became a mythic giant, a 10-foot-tall world-beater dispatching foes with ease.
“They never saw it comin’, you hit the ground runnin’/And now you’re on to somethin’, I, I, I say”
Divisional Round: Postseason redemption - ‘Long Live’
I said, ‘Remember this feeling’/I pass the pictures around/Of all the years that we stood there on the sidelines/Wishing for right now
After resting the starters in the season finale against the Steelers, Baltimore waited a week to welcome back the Texans for the divisional round of the playoffs.
For some on the team, this game was haunted. Four years ago the Ravens entered the playoffs as the best team in the AFC and fell flat against the Tennessee Titans: “Come on, come on, don’t leave me like this/I thought I had you figured out/Something’s gone terribly wrong/Won’t finish what you started.”
Up next: The Kansas City Chiefs, the last great American Football Conference dynasty.
Baltimore Banner reporter Danielle Allentuck and photographer Kylie Cooper contributed to this article by directing this elder-millennial editor to many of the references contained in this article.