It was little more than a month ago that the Baltimore Ravens were 5-1 and looking like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Then came a 28-24 home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first of three losses in four games that have plunged the Ravens (6-4) into third place in the AFC North behind the undefeated Steelers and the second-place(!) Cleveland Browns (7-3).
The stress appears to be getting to the Ravens—and quarterback Lamar Jackson in particular.
After the Ravens lost to the New England Patriots 23-17 on November 15th, he said, “We’re ticked off. Don’t nobody like losing…. Just got to re-group” and get ready for Tennessee.
Well, the game against Tennessee didn’t go well, either, as the Ravens built a 21-10 lead in the third quarter but wilted in the fourth and allowed the Titans to score a come-from-behind 30-24 overtime win.
After the game, Jackson blamed the loss on a lack of effort on the part of his own team, saying, “It looked like [the Titans] wanted it more than us,” said Jackson, via the team’s official website. “They were playing physical. When we went up, I felt like we just took our foot off the gas….”
Indeed, the Ravens had a chance to put the Titans away relatively early but scored just one touchdown in four trips into the Red Zone.
“We’ve got to finish drives with touchdowns,” Jackson added. “We just have to stop putting [Justin] Tucker out there [and settling for field goals]; we have to punch it in.”
But that appears to be getting harder for the Ravens to do as defenses have gained a better and better read on Baltimore’s offense.
Lamar Jackson: Defenses Are “Calling Out Our Plays”
On November 11th Jackson told The Rich Eisen Show that defenses “know what we’re doing,” saying, defenses are “calling out our plays, stuff like that…. Sometimes stuff won’t go our way if they’re beating us to the punch.”
In fact, Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith indicated he knew where the ball was going when he intercepted a Jackson pass in the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s win over the Ravens earlier this month. Never mind the fact that Steelers inside linebacker Robert Spillane intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown during the same game.
But Jackson insists that things were worse during his rookie year in 2018 when Baltimore started 4-5, saying, “People were down on us then … and we turned the season around.”
Still, he feels like critics are now out to get him—and his teammates—something that wasn’t the case prior to his MVP season in 2019. “I feel like people want us to lose,” he said on Sunday.
No doubt the Steelers and their fans would like to see the losing continue, especially on Thursday night when the Ravens visit Heinz Field for a primetime showdown at 8:20 ET.
The Ravens (And Their Reserve Lists)
To get back on track, the Ravens will have to overcome an increasing array of obstacles. For example, Baltimore currently has 11 players on its injured reserve list, including left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury when the Ravens lost to the Steelers on November 1st. That helps explain why the Ravens have utilized four different offensive line combinations thus far this season.
More notably, still, on Monday the Ravens added three key players to the team’s COVID-19 reserve list, two of whom—running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram—have tested positive for the virus. Another—defensive tackle Brandon Williams—was also placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, having been deemed a high-risk close contact of an infected individual. All three players will be unavailable vs. Pittsburgh.
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