The coaching staff’s hesitation to trust Baltimore’s rookie quarterback to throw hampered the team’s offensive in the team’s first postseason game.
This past Sunday, Lamar Jackson started in his first postseason game as the NFL’s youngest starter. It was a frustrating night for Baltimore’s offensive as the Ravens lost 23-17 to the Chargers. Jackson led a late comeback and passed for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, although he battled throughout the game. The Ravens coaching staff was also unable to save the team.
It seems that John Harbaugh and his staff didn’t trust the rookie quarterback who led the team to a 7-1 record to throw the ball.
Ravens had three fumbles, three completions, and three first downs in the opening three-quarters of the game against the Titans. A sack total of minus-2 passing yards was all Jackson had left with 13 minutes left in the game.
A seemingly unintentional fumble on Baltimore’s first possession of the game was followed by an on-target snap that Jackson misplaced (both were recovered by the team). Adrian Phillips of the Chargers intercepted a pass that flew high off the hands of leaping receiver Chris Moore and into Phillips’ hands.
For Jackson, this was nothing new, as he tied the league lead with seven regular-season starts in fumbles. Harbaugh was on the verge of benching Jackson in favour of Joe Flacco because of his inability to keep the ball secure and the constant pressure from the Charger’s pass rush.
After throwing for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the final nine minutes, Jackson demonstrated he was capable of slinging it and saved what could have been one of the worst stat lines in NFL playoff history. But Jackson’s comeback came to a stop when Chargers rookie linebacker Uchenna Nwosu stripped him for his third fumble of the day, losing the ball—and the game.
Jackson was awful on the whole. It wasn’t Jackson’s performance that was the problem; it was a lack of preparation on the part of Baltimore’s offensive coaching staff. The Chargers changed their defence after a close victory against the Ravens in Los Angeles two weeks ago in a game in which the Ravens ran 35 times for 159 yards.
Dime packages have been increasingly common in the NFL this season, with Los Angeles using safeties as substitutes for middle linebackers and positioning them near the line of scrimmage. With so many defensive backs in position to deter Jackson’s throws, it was a risky move for the defence, but one that paid off in the long run for the offence.
Tony Romo, a CBS analyst, said in the fourth quarter, “I’ve never seen it”. There was three safety in the middle linebacker position for the whole game….” The run is being halted by these DBs. “It’s mind-blowing.”
The Ravens became the top running club in the NFL after Jackson took over the offence. Because they were the first to face Baltimore’s unconventional approach, the San Diego Chargers used an aggressive defence to counter it. It was too late for Baltimore to adapt to the change.
This is by the Ravens’ play calling so far this season, but it is odd given their rushing average of fewer than 4 yards on the day, as the team faced a third-and-4 at the Charger’s 15-yard line in the third quarter. A fourth-quarter blitz by Jackson resulted in Jackson finishing the game with more throwing yards than Philip Rivers.
It was a shame that Baltimore’s defence was wasted in the loss. Ravens’ defence limited the Chargers to just 19 yards and a single point on two drives that began in Ravens’ territory. The Ravens’ special teams also prevented a potential game-winning field goal attempt late in the game.
As a result of the offence’s inability to handle a defence that would dare them to throw, as well as their inability to come from behind, the team lost the game. In terms of the time of possession, Baltimore was the best in the league last season, averaging 32:27, but only possessed the ball for 26:20 on Sunday.
In the fourth quarter, Jackson did enough to quell clamour for Flacco to replace him, and his cap situation still makes Jackson the quarterback in 2019 unquestionable. In his first season with the Ravens, Jackson has a 7-2 record and looks to be on the rise.
No matter what the rumours say, it looks like Harbaugh will be returning to Baltimore in 2019 despite the speculation that he might be traded. Ravens coach John Harbaugh needs to have more faith in his young quarterback in 2019 if the Ravens are to build on their success from 2018.
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