By Norm Elrod
Quarterback Lamar Jackson isn’t an NFL-caliber passer, at least not yet. His threat as a quarterback stems from his running ability and how that opens up the offense for other runners. Every one of the Baltimore Ravens’ opponents throughout the second half of the season knew this. The Los Angeles Chargers, who shut down the Ravens’ ground game in Week 16 and knocked them out of the playoffs yesterday, knew this too.
At halftime of the Ravens’ 23-17 loss, the score was 12-0. It shouldn’t have been that close, as the Chargers settled for a 21-yard chip shot on their first drive. The first-half shut out, at home, no less, was reflected in various other offensive stats beyond the scoreboard. The Ravens’ first-half possessions went as follows: 21 yards and punt, -14 yards and fumble, 13 yards and punt, 8 yards and punt, 21 yards and interception, and 6 yards and punt. Jackson barely sniffed the 50-yard line (let alone the red zone) the entire half. In addition to his two turnovers, he fumbled another time on the play before Kenneth Dixon’s turnover.
Should I go on? Okay, I will.
Jackson finished the half with two completions on eight attempts, for a whopping 17 yards. That’s a 0.00 passer rating, in case anybody is wondering. He amassed 31 yards on the ground, but that hardly made up for the anemic passing attack to that point.
Jackson looked like the rookie quarterback he is. And Marty Mornhinweg, the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, certainly didn’t do him any favors with the vanilla play-calling. The Chargers defense deserves some credit for game plan and execution. They played with seven defensive backs most of the time and knew more than half the plays before they happened. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, the Chargers’ elite defensive ends, harassed Jackson the whole half.
With all this, head coach, John Harbaugh, chose to continue on with Jackson in the third quarter, keeping backup QB, Joe Flacco, on the bench. This is almost forgivable, at least for a series, if the team had made adjustments at halftime. That doesn’t appear to be the case. The Ravens’ first drive of the third quarter started on their own 31-yard line and ended, three plays later, on their own 21-yard line.
At this point, the Ravens’ offense isn’t working, even as the NFL’s best defense keeps the game within reach against one of the League’s better offenses. Jackson has proved ineffective, and a former Super Bowl MVP, with gas left in the tank, is sitting on the bench. The 2018 season, which included an AFC North title, after an impressive late-season surge, is slipping away with each additional three-and out.
Put in Flacco, he couldn’t possibly do any worse. In fact, given his experience, chances are he could solve the Chargers’ defensive puzzle, or at least breathe life into the offense.
Jackson is probably the team’s future, and yesterday’s furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt suggests that he’s growing as a quarterback and a leader. But it was too little too late.
Flacco should’ve started the second half. He would’ve given the Ravens the best chance to win.