After a 38-3 week 17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson were able to clinch a playoff berth for the third consecutive year. This will be a great chance at redemptions for the Ravens and Jackson as they will travel to Tennessee to face the Titans, the team who eliminated them last postseason.
The Ravens were the number one seed in the AFC and the favorite to go to the Super Bowl last season, but the Titans made quick work of them winning 28-12, the Ravens largest deficit of the entire season. With the loss, there was criticism of Jackson if his play style could be effective to leading a team in the postseason as now he held a 0-2 playoff record in his career.
Jackson was able to throw for 365 yards, one touchdown and he added 143 yards on the ground in that game, he also had three turnovers in the game (two interceptions, one fumble lost). The criticism of Jackson can be deemed as unfair as the lost to the Titans last postseason is not all his fault, but he knew after the game his turnovers were not helping his team.
“We just beat ourselves,” Jackson said. “I had a lot of mistakes on my behalf. Three turnovers. That’s shouldn’t happen.”
This Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, ESPN) Jackson will have a chance to right those mistakes and silence his critics against the Titans, who also beat Jackson and the Ravens this season 30-24 in overtime in week 11.
In that game, Jackson threw for 186 yards, one touchdown, one interception and added 51 yards rushing. It was a disappointing loss as the Titans gathered on the Ravens logo at midfield for their pregame speech and taunted the Ravens sideline soon after. It led to a verbal shouting match between Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Titans players and coaching staff. The loss was a low point for the Ravens this season, but they came together to finish the season strong.
Jackson Improved as a Passer
After being 6-5 and looking outside in of the playoff picture, the Ravens won five consecutive games to finish at 11-5. In those games, Jackson accounted for a total of 15 touchdowns and helped lead the Ravens to an average margin of victory of 19.4 points.
A big reason for the win streak has been Jackson’s ability to throw against the blitz. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, from weeks 1-11, Jackson had a completion percentage of only 61.7 and a passer rating of 83.9 when blitzed. But in weeks 13-17, Jackson had a completion percentage of 73.7 to go along with an outstanding 155.2 passer rating.
Jackson also improved his downfield passing during the five game win streak. On passes of more than 10-plus air yards, Jackson had a completion percentage of 44.3 and a passer rating of 93.3 as he threw for nine touchdowns and three interceptions in weeks 1-11. In weeks 13-17, Jackson improved his completion percentage to 60 to go along with with a 119.9 passer rating. He also threw for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions during that span.
The end of the regular season was a reminder for who Jackson is as a player. He also became the first quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. Jackson also became the only player in NFL history to throw for 7,000-plus yards and run for 2,500-plus yards in a players first three seasons.
Ready to Silence the Critics
Even with Jackson has accomplished in the regular season, Jackson hears the criticism about his playoff struggles and knows he needs to win to silence his doubters.
“I need to win a playoff game before anything because I’m tired of hearing of that already,” Jackson said this offseason about his 0-2 playoff record. “Once I get tired of something, I have to make it happen. So that’s my goal right now; focus on being a better player all-around. Not just a [better] player, but teammate as well.”
There is no better way for Jackson to get rid of the noise about his playoff struggles against the team who sent him and the Ravens home early last season. The matchup is favorable for Jackson and the Ravens offense as the Titans rank 28th in total defense.