On the fumble that came at the very end of a sensational rookie season, Zay Flowers came up bleeding.

He had a cut on his hand that had reopened, and for a few moments after the goal-line gaffe that will stand as the most frustrating moment of his short career so far, he was grabbing towels to wipe away the blood leaking down his arm. (The CBS broadcast suggested he had opened it by punching the bench in frustration.)

The emotional bloodletting could continue a while longer.

While Flowers, 23, said he had already turned the page less than a day after the Ravens’ 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship, he acknowledged that his fumble would be a motivation in the offseason to come.

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“It just teaches you ups and downs,” Flowers said. “You have a lot of ups and then all of a sudden, you have a down. It’s just how you go about it. You gotta go about it, and the way I’m going to go about it is I’m gonna come back better.”

Flowers was, in fact, the Ravens’ best receiver Sunday night. He caught five passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, very nearly matching the output of star Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. He was the Ravens’ best receiving option all year, catching 77 passes for 858 yards and five touchdowns — ranking him third among NFL rookie wideouts in receiving yards after Baltimore took him 22nd overall out of Boston College.

Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers cleans out his locker on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

But what Flowers called “probably the best year playing football of my life” ended with a thud. Going for the end zone in the fourth quarter, his fumble forced by Chiefs DB L’Jarius Sneed was a gutting moment for a Ravens offense that struggled all night and one of the game’s biggest momentum swings.

Several teammates supported Flowers after the fact, no one more than fellow receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who said he told the rookie, “Bro, you’re going to be straight.” Flowers indicated others throughout the league had texted him with similar sentiments.

“Everybody texted me on how it’s just a moment,” he said. “It’s gonna make or break you, and I don’t plan on letting it break me.”

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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) celebrates his touchdown pass reception in the first quarter of the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium on Jan. 28, 2024. The Chiefs beat the Ravens, 17-10, to advance to the Super Bowl. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Flowers spent a chunk of the last offseason training in South Florida, his native home and the favored training ground of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Fresh out of college and standing at just 5-foot-9, Flowers still managed to set a franchise rookie receiving record, smashing Torrey Smith’s earlier mark of just 50 receptions.

With a full offseason and plenty of motivation from the sour taste of his last game, Flowers speculated he could take another leap.

“Yeah I feel like I got another step,” he said. “I feel I can be one of the best receivers in this league, and I’m not gonna let one moment define me. I’m gonna use it as a slingshot.”

This story has been updated to correct the link to the video of the CBS broadcast comments about Flowers’ hand injury.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum. 

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