Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson said this week he would like to change the narrative surrounding his start to his 0-2 playoff career, but while he’s the main lightning rod, he’s not the only one being looked at. up close for recent playoff offense disappointments.
The unit as a whole struggled in a loss to the Chargers two seasons ago and a stunning loss to the Titans last year. Prior to that 28-12 loss to Tennessee, Baltimore led the NFL in scoring in 2019 and totaled at least 20 points in every regular season game.
With Jackson, offensive coordinator Greg Roman absorbed heavy criticism for the performance in a crushing loss.
So ahead of the Ravens’ No.5 playoff rematch against the No.4 Titans on Sunday, Roman, Jackson and other members of the offense faced questions about their state of mind. Here are some takeaways from the way they responded:
1) Greg Roman defended his game plan against last year’s playoff loss and his general approach
The Ravens in 2019 broke the NFL single-season rushing record, and then Jackson attempted a career-high 59 assists in the playoff loss to the Titans. Fans have complained, pundits have decried the appeal of the game, and the Titans have bragged about it. Roman didn’t flinch.
He has repeatedly defended his decisions in that game and did so again on Thursday.
Attempts by the Ravens to close an early deficit (trailing 14-0 early in the third quarter and 21-6 midway through the fourth) inflated the number of passing plays. Beyond that, Roman pointed to the positives of a loss to Tennessee. He noted that Baltimore gained 530 yards, 230 more than Tennessee, and moved the ball well for much of the night.
“We did a great job controlling the ball, extending practice,” said Roman. “We just haven’t finished the trips. We returned the ball; gave it on the downs, we just didn’t get the points. I think we had about 530 meters. The plan was good, other than what? We didn’t score any runs to save all the yards. If we had converted some of those long runs into touchdowns it would have been a whole different story. “
Baltimore made three turnovers and scored a touchdown on just one of four trips inside the red zone in the playoff loss. An interception in the Ravens’ first practice that hit the hands of tight end Mark Andrews and ricocheted through the air was significant, as were the conversion failures of the fourth and 1 in the second and third quarters.
But the idea here isn’t to question what happened 12 months ago, it’s to point out that Roman doesn’t seem to agree with – or feel deterred by – the criticisms to which he was faced in the aftermath of last year’s loss.
The Titans this season ranked 22nd in the NFL for yards allowed per passing game (6.8) and 19th for yards allowed per rushing attempt (4.5). They allowed 36 touchdown passes, the second most in the NFL.
If Roman thinks more throws would help Baltimore beat Tennessee, it looks like he’ll ask Jackson to throw the ball. He won’t let engagement in a rushed attack that led the NFL in terms of distance and efficiency dictate every decision.
“That’s kind of the trick to it all: it’s not just about the racing game; it’s the combination of running and passing play, ”said Roman. “If a team is really strong against the run and weak against the pass and inconsistent against the pass, then we will definitely fit that into the game plan.”
Five days after the Ravens broke a franchise record with 404 rushing yards against the Bengals, Roman made it clear that good balance in the offense remains paramount. It’s up to him to try to capture it.
2) Players see better performance in the red zone as the key to a different outcome
Roman and other members of the Ravens, including Jackson and coach John Harbaugh, said the Titans did not reveal any unique defensive plans in last year’s playoff game. Baltimore just didn’t play well enough to win.
The same goes for a Week 11 overtime loss to Tennessee in November. The Ravens amassed 306 total yards in that game, the fewest Titans allowed all season, but they saw nothing unique in the defense they faced.
So what went wrong? The only answer the Ravens are willing to release publicly is simple: They didn’t perform in the red zone. Although Jackson has been one of the NFL’s most efficient passers inside an opponent’s 20 yards since joining the league in 2018, Baltimore has only scored touchdowns on two of eight trips. in the red zone in the last two games against Tennessee.
“When we won games we were effective there, and when we didn’t we weren’t effective,” said Harbaugh.
During the 2020 regular season, the Ravens scored on 63.3% of their practices that entered the red zone, which placed 12th in the NFL. They have the talent to improve that number, with Jackson behind center, powerful running back Gus Edwards as the short-haul expert in the backfield and JK Dobbins as the better option. Dobbins set a franchise record with nine rushing touchdowns as a rookie.
Andrews and wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Boykin also give Jackson some massive targets in the passing game.
The Ravens are therefore convinced they can do better in the red zone against the Titans on Sunday than they have in the past.
“This time, let’s just finish,” Jackson said. “When we get to the red zone, score some points and I think we’ll be fine. Just finish.
Andrews added: “The red zone is even more so. [about] to be efficient ; the 11 guys are doing their job, making parts. If you do that, you’re going to be effective in the red zone. The last two games, or five games or whatever, you watch our red zone [and] we have been that. So everything revolves around us. … We just have to keep doing it, and keep making games, and our guys will. So we will be efficient there.
3) Lamar Jackson says he won’t try to do too much this time
Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP who turned 24 this week, offered an interesting response Wednesday when a reporter asked him what he learned from his first two playoff appearances.
“When you get in there, take your time because things are going to be the right way,” Jackson said. “Don’t try to get things done right away; take your time. And I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing a little bit sometimes all through the [playoff] Game [last year] – I’m just trying to do too much, instead of just taking my time. “
This season has shown that a relaxed, cowardly Jackson is the Ravens’ best version of the quarterback. He’s got motivation, sure, but he’s smiled, laughed and celebrated throughout a five-game winning streak the team pursues in the playoffs.
Andrews said this week that Jackson won’t fight the pressure or thoughts of past playoff disappointments.
“He’s a different type of guy,” Andrews said. “His state of mind, his way of thinking, it’s not something that’s going to weigh him down or really affect the way he plays this game.”
If Jackson plays the way he’s been in recent weeks, maybe his playoff fortunes will change soon.