Thursday, December 22, 2022

Lamar Jackson Says Ravens’ Red Zone Offense Is ‘Just Not Clickable’

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The Baltimore Ravens (7-4) not only had their four-game winning streak against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12, it was arguably their worst loss of the season so far. While it was their fourth lost two-point lead of the year, it was their first loss to a team with a losing record.

Though defense bears the primary blame for giving up 18 points in the fourth quarter alone, offense played a crucial role in letting the Jaguars hang around and eventually being able to complete their heartbreaking comeback.

Although they made no effort to move the ball consistently, their inability to complete all or even most of their five trips to the red zone in the end zone kept the game close enough for Jacksonville to tie and ultimately win game at the end.

“We were stopped,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a post-game press conference. “You try to name your best games. Sometimes you think you can break it in – you break it in [and] it doesn’t work – sometimes you try to pass it on. We just didn’t do a good job in the red zone, is the conclusion.

The Ravens successfully converted four field tries, three of which came from under 30 yards, after making a promising drive stall inside Jacksonville’s 20-yard line. They were 0-of-3 in their first three trips to the red zone before finally finding success in their last two in the fourth quarter.

“Those are big rides down there, and obviously touchdowns are what you’re looking for,” Harbaugh said. “This is something we need to improve for the future. That’s really important for us.”

Settling for short field goals hasn’t fared against the scrappy but unassuming Jaguars, and it certainly won’t keep the Ravens in games or allow them to retire if they face the top in AFC Conference playoff time teams compete. If they don’t fix it, this won’t be the only loss for a team with a losing record that they will suffer over time as they are currently going up against the Cincinnati Bengals at five ahead of their Week 18 matchup (7-4 ) in a game that could, and likely will, decide the winner of the AFC North Division crown.

The Ravens had several chances to get up early on the Jaguars and finish the game well before their final fourth-quarter collapse. However, a handful of missed chances prevented them from controlling the game in the first three quarters and continued their problems with the red zone and overall scoring chances.

“[We] I just need to get more points, try to get more points early if at all,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said in a post-game press conference. “Try not to miss the opportunities. We missed a few chances there. That’s it.”

The Ravens could have taken an early lead and set the tone of the game on play two before scrimmage. Jackson brought down veteran wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, who grazed wide open deep in field with plenty of margin and would have rolled into the end zone for a 50-yard score if his quarterback had just caught him in the crotch.

On the Ravens’ next offensive possession, Dobinson dropped a touchdown four yards past the end zone, and the team opted for a second straight short try from All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker.

On their first possession of the second half, the Ravens drove inside the Jaguars’ 20-yard line for the third time when Jackson was unable to connect with tight end Josh Oliver for an 18-yard touchdown but the high pass , reached instead bounced off his fingertips and Tucker kicked his fourth field of the game five games later.

Jackson said the unit is usually very crisp in practice throughout the week, but when it comes to their games, they’ve been just a little off lately and haven’t managed to play consistently.

“Sometimes we just didn’t make it,” he said. “We hit one late in the game [and] worked out. But still I feel like [if] we score early [the] game looks different.”

He believes the entire team “will have confidence” if they can execute early and often on offense. By building momentum and leadership earlier in games, they can avoid dramatic results and increase their likelihood of reaching their ultimate goal of winning a championship.

Though it took them a while to finally find the end zone and ended up falling short, the Ravens still had some players who put in impressive performances against the Jaguars in Week 12.

Jackson amassed a total of 343 yards of offense with his combined passing and rushing yardage totals. He threw for 254 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and ran for a team-leading and game-high 89 yards. Some of his most impressive games came as a passer, although he admittedly missed a few games on the field.

His best throw of the day was a smash hit for veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was playing his second game since signing for the team in October. It was both teams’ longest play in the game and helped set up the Ravens’ second touchdown drive. He caught two of his three goals for 74 yards while his other reception went for 12 yards and also resulted in a first down.

The passcatcher who led the team in receiving yards and receiving yards and shared the lead in receptions was fourth-year Josh Oliver, who rushed for a career-high 76 yards on four catches, including his second career touchdown, to cause the Ravens to be delayed.

It was a timely breakout game from Oliver as the team was without promising rookie tight end Isaiah Likely due to an ankle injury and it happened to come up against the team that drafted him, albeit in a losing effort.

“[It’s] definitely tough,” Oliver said in a post-game press conference on November 27. “It’s a blessing to be back on the field. I have to thank God. Coming back here healthy is a big thing for me, but it’s also tough. It’s a loss.”

The Jaguars originally picked him 69th overall from San Diego State in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but he never realized his potential in Jacksonville before being traded to the Ravens last year. After fighting his way into the final 53-man list with a strong training camp and pre-season, Oliver is enjoying the best season of his career.

“It was obviously a big game for me to come back to Jacksonville, but there’s no telling if I’ll get the ball more or not. [It] just happened,” said Oliver.

Though it took them a while to finally find the end zone and ended up falling short, the Ravens still had some players who put in impressive performances against the Jaguars in Week 12.

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