What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Today’s Take: What happened to the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday Night had less to do with Lamar Jackson; it’s more about the freeze-job John Harbaugh pulled.
Frankly, after this past weekend’s weekend’s complete and utter demolition of the Baltimore Ravens by the Tennessee Titans, the arguments back-and-forth, pro-and-con about Lamar Jackson have already become stale. Frankly, what happened to the Ravens was less about Jackson and more about the Ravens’ offense in general…including the coaches.
But because the media is the trash-fire that it is, somehow this all became about Lamar Jackson. Yeah, I know he accounted for over 500 yards of total offense by himself, but you can also say the same for his three turnovers. If I really wanted to dive into the minutia, we could talk about how Jackson made more bad decisions than good ones in that game, but there was a point where one had to wonder what head coach John Harbaugh was thinking.
Granted, it’s also easy to pin the Titans’ success on the Sherman tank in shoulder pads known as Derrick Henry, but doing so ignores a couple of important facts. Don’t look at the game stats; they are the definition of misleading. Thanks to Lamar Jackson, Baltimore out-gained the Titans by over 200 yards. The Ravens ran 39 more offensive plays, and controlled the time of possession for almost five more minutes. But they still got their collective asses kicked.
Here’s the key. Don’t forget that at halftime, the Titans were only trailing 14-6, and it was clear Harbaugh and the Ravens clearly understood they had to come up with a “Plan B” because the usual recipe for Raven success wasn’t cooking. Things seemed to be going Baltimore’s way at the start of the third quarter, until on their first drive they turned the ball over on downs.
Not only was that the second time Baltimore couldn’t convert on 4th down, they did it inside the Titans’ 20-yard line. In a vacuum, you could understand the line of thinking that a field goal at that point still left Baltimore one score behind. You can really understand it when you stop to consider a main focus of the Ravens offensive philosophy was avoiding 3rd-and-long situations to keep pressure off Lamar Jackson, the still-developing passer. Hence, they kicked butt during the regular season converting on 3rd/4th-and-short.
But this didn’t happen in a vacuum, and one of the biggest tells the Ravens’ coaches had a problem they didn’t understand was when the clock hit 00:00 on Saturday night, Baltimore had EIGHT drives that ended inside the Tennessee 40-yard line. If you look at the field position where those eight drives ended, the problem becomes obvious:
How do you move the ball that effectively, rack up over 500 yards of total offense and end up with only 12 points? The answer is the Ravens offense did a complete and total face-plant. Two interceptions, a lost fumble, and two turnovers only starts the post-mortem as to what happened. It didn’t help that Lamar Jackson was throwing into coverage so often there easily could have been at least two more picks on the tally. But again, that’s not the whole story.
Once the Titans drove the ball downfield after the second Raven failure to convert on 4th down to take a 21-6 lead, you could see the panic set in. Mark Ingram’s injury severely curtailed his ability to run the ball between the tackles. The Titans took away the edge from Lamar Jackson, and by crowding “the box” with 8 or 9 guys, they made the quick-slant passing game and the over-the-middle stuff to the tight ends problematic.
In other words, without an adjustment, the Titans were forcing Lamar Jackson to do the one thing nobody has seen him do yet…come back from a double-digit deficit not just by throwing the ball, but throwing it outside the numbers. While Jackson has certainly grown as a passer, the area between the numbers and the sideline is far from his comfort zone.
But the worst part was the Ravens coaching staff really did nothing to help Jackson at a moment he needed it the most. By stacking “the box,” not only did the Titans take away the “bread and butter” of the Ravens offense, they were generating effective pressure on Jackson. He was sacked four times and knocked-down at least double that.
But the Ravens’ play-calling really didn’t change; there wasn’t even an attempt to help Jackson with some easy screens or even a healthy running back to sell the idea of a running game to bring back the run-pass option/play action stuff. That’s why the Titans let Jackson and the Ravens have a steady diet of cheap underneath stuff. They let the Ravens have all kinds of meaningless yardage between the 20-yard lines; the idea being not to get beat deep or give up big plays.
But the part with the worst optics was when when the Titans’ answered Baltimore’s sole touchdown, and did it in a way that looked like they knew they had this game in the bag. The problem was the Ravens looked that way as well; you could see the wind coming out from under the Raves’ collective wings.
This included Lamar Jackson, who retired to the end of the bench by himself and sulked, helmet in hand. That was the moment for John Harbaugh to play mentor/coach to his wunderkind quarterback, but that didn’t happen. Instead Harbaugh stood staring at the Jumbo-Tron, the disbelief dripping off of him.
It comes down to this. Lamar Jackson had a awful game. That won’t be last time. The Ravens couldn’t stop Derrick Henry. Nobody else has been able to that this season, especially in the last two months. But when it came time for the head coach to be a leader, John “Nero” Harbaugh fiddled while Baltimore burned. If the Titans can throw a touchdown pass with a running back, one would think a Super Bowl-winning coach could have at least looked like he was trying to make an adjustment. After all, the Ravens could have at least tried some trickery of their own. All those Jackson detractors who said the guy should be a wide receiver…maybe that was worth a shot at some point.
What did they have to lose? They were already losing a shot at a Super Bowl.
Change my mind.
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