A lot went wrong for quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday. Against one of the NFL’s worst defenses, they ended up with fewer passing yards per attempt, fewer yards per carry than Pittsburgh and fewer points, on average, in their first 11 games. It was, coach John Harbaugh said on Monday, a “tough loss.”
“But that’s the nature of it right now in the National Football League,” he said. “We’ll go to work. I think you win, or you learn. You lose, or you even learn. So, we have to find a way to learn through everything. … This season You have to find a way to deal with adversity, deal with good things, systematically adjust what you need to do, keep improving technology wise. Let’s take a longer view, but focus on next week, and that’s what we’re doing.”
As the Ravens prepare for Sunday’s rematch with the Browns in Cleveland, they will first need to focus on their offensive failures in Pittsburgh: sacks, red-zone interceptions, unsuccessful 2-point conversions. Coordinator Greg Roman and his offense will need answers by the time they leave for Cleveland. The Browns restricted the Ravens to just 3.9 yards per play in Week 12, a season short for the Ravens, and they should be prepared even better after a bye week.
Jackson was dismissed from a career-high seven times on Sunday. He has been dismissed 37 times this season, another career high and entering Week 14 more than any other NFL quarterback. According to Football Outsiders, only the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks have poorly adjusted sack rates compared to the Ravens, who down, distance and rival.
It is not easy to play the blame game in this case; Pass Protection is a 12-man enterprise. It requires a coach to make the right call, the quarterback to time the ball out, blockers to keep it straight, and the receiver to open. Each Ravens group has its drawbacks, such as each Ravens player having their own Sunday struggle.
But the main culprit in Pittsburgh appeared to be Jackson. According to a review of the Steelers’ sacks, he had at least one receiver open when he last threw most, if not all, of his legs over his ruined drop-back. In some cases it is impossible to tell where Jackson was in his stride or whether some receivers were unclear in his vision. But time and again, he had the opportunity to get rid of the ball, only to tuck it in and get into trouble.
Pittsburgh was aggressive on Sunday, but not by much; None of the Steelers’ seven sacks came upon “cover 0″” coverage, which defends in a blitz-heavy, man-to-man look without any safety aid. Jackson faced five pass rushers in his five takedowns and just four in the other two. The problem of the Ravanas was elsewhere. Here they came short:
- Steelers 14 (1st quarter) First and 10 balls: Fullback Patrick Ricard, after being released flat, was 3 yards downfield and 5 yards away from the nearest defender. But Jackson bounced out instead, where defensive end Chris Wormley pulled him down.
- 2nd and -5, Ravens ’18 (1st quarter): Wide receiver James Proche II blocks the sticks and serves up an easy goal in the middle. With a cornerback blitz from the same side, Jackson instead climbed to the pocket and nearly escaped, only to be tripped by outside linebacker TJ Watts.
- First-end-10, Ravens ’49 (2nd quarter): Jackson had a half-field read, with just two receivers downfield, and both were open: wide receiver Marquis “Hollywood” Brown was 5 yards away from the nearest defender When he stopped on a deep return passage, and tight end Mark Andrews was peeling away from his man for a casual throwback window. But Jackson waited. Then the records shone in the middle. Jackson waited some more. In the end, Wormley sacked him.
- Third and 9, Midfield (2nd Quarter): Two plays after Wormley’s second sack, the Steelers blew up cornerback Trey Norwood. Wide receiver Devin DuVernay adjusted his route, raised his hand to get Jackson’s attention, then saw Jackson double-clutch and try to escape. He almost did, but he couldn’t escape defensive end Cameron Hayward, who was the last line of defense at the line of scrimmage.
- Second and -8, Ravens’ 45 (3rd quarter): Jackson had to scramble to his right after a strong early pass rush, negating the half of the field where the Ravens’ four downfield receivers were running. But Brown was open in front of the first-down marker, and despite turning around, and being nearly parallel to Jackson, his quarterback never seemed to see him. Before long, Wormley and Watt followed Jackson.
- 2nd and 10th, Ravens 25 (4th quarter): Jackson didn’t have much open downfield, but wide receiver Sammy Watkins found a soft spot in zone coverage after the first-down marker. Devonta Freeman was walking back and was available for check-down in the middle. So was DuVernay, who had daylight in the flat. As soon as Jackson tried to buy himself some extra time, however, Watt was on it, simply removing the tire Phillips right.
- Second and -10, Ravens 40 (Fourth Quarter): The Ravens ran four vertical routes, leaving Jackson with no fast-paced option. But rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman easily got a move on cornerback Cam Sutton, and Andrews was running with inside linebacker Devin Bush, who turned his head away from the play. Instead of taking a chance for Bateman or Andrews in the middle, Jackson went up in the pocket, slipped a sack attempt, then Watt came and let the ball loose. Luckily for the Ravens, it went all the way to the side.
After the game, Harbaugh said that the Ravens’ coach could do more to help Jackson get the ball out quickly. But Harbaugh also admitted that “the ball was being stopped, sometimes trying to push the ball down.”
“We definitely gave them enough time to get to him,” Harbaugh said. “Many times he ran away, and did some big plays, extended plays. … We talk about this a lot in our press conferences. So he’s kind of like – Lamar is a weirdo of that kind. It’s a boy. Seven sacks are enough.”
Jackson said: “We just have to go to the lab and find ways to do things and continue our work and try not to get sacks. Try to have positive play in each play. That’s it.”
Jackson’s interception on the Ravens’ first possession could easily have been avoided. He could have taken his chances on the third and sixth games with a quick strike to drive back Latvius Murray, who flew out of the backfield and swung right flat against Bush.
He could have thrown Brown in the middle, running a shallow crossing route and had the advantage of position and speed over safety Terrell Edmonds.
Or he could have thrown the ball out of bounds, knowing that kicker Justin Tucker would almost certainly give the Ravens a 3-0 lead with a small field-goal effort.
Instead, Jackson took a bad position and doubled the risk. The alignment of the Ravens was questionable from the start; His five offensive linemen appeared to be sliding their defenses to the left on the snap, meaning Jackson was saved from a late cornerback blitz, but not from Watt, an unblocked path from the right side of the line. .
Jackson backpedaled and backpedaled, waiting to open against Andrews’ “Cover 0” look. Jackson said he wanted to throw over the head of safety. Minka Fitzpatrick, who was lurking near the goal line, probably wanted to reduce any throws to Andrews.
But Jackson had to throw his back foot over the Ravens’ 25-yard line, about 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and the pass never got close enough to Andrews’ catch radius. Fitzpatrick came down with Jackson’s fifth interception in the last two games.
Jackson called the Ravens’ 2-point-conversion attempt a failure—a play-action look for Andrews released in perfect flat—a “perfect play.”
Maybe the only problem? The design of the play meant that Watt would be left unblocked. And he had close experience with Jackson.
“The drama I played in my head all week was Lamar pump-faking, who was in Baltimore last year and beat me to a 14-, 15-yard scuffle,” Watt told NBC Sports after the game. “So in this scenario, I just want [to] Stand on my feet and try to impress him by raising my outstretched hand, change its angle. ,
Had the Ravens turned the play around, Watts (16 sacks in 10 games) would likely have been in possession of a fake run, and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith (three sacks in 11 games) would have been left unblocked. Jackson may also have had to throw as he rolled to his left, a less comfortable proposition than throwing from his right. But Watt’s pace, size and strategy were enough to disrupt Jackson, ending his time with Andrews.
“He’s taller than me, wider,” Jackson said. “I just had to do something. That’s it.”
Ravens @ Browns
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 13, 9 radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
Line: brown 2