Ravens QB Lamar Jackson blames himself for Steelers loss
The Baltimore Ravens did just about everything they needed to do to win on Sunday when they squared off with their arch division rival Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time this season.
The hosting Ravens outgained the visiting Steelers through the air and on the ground by a landslide and dominated time of possession.
Unfortunately, starting quarterback Lamar Jackson failed to do the most paramount task that is key to playing winning football.
Following his four turnover game that ultimately sealed his team’s fate and helped Pittsburgh stay perfect on the season by improving to 7-0, the reigning league MVP rightfully placed the loss on his shoulders.
“The turnovers I feel is the reason why we lost the game,” Jackson said. “I put that on me.”
Jackson’s first turnover resulted in the first points of the game on its opening drive, the only problem was that it came via an interception that Steelers former backup linebacker turned spot-starter Robert Spillane returned 33-yards for a touchdown to give his team the first lead on the game.
He responded with a touchdown of his own on the ensuing possession by leading a nine-play drive that covered 65 yards and was capped off by a six-yard strike to Miles Boykin in the back of the endzone.
The Ravens had the momentum and wee surging following the defense forcing and recovering a fumble on the Steelers’ first offensive possession of the game.
Baltimore’s offense drove all the way down to Pittsburgh’s eight-yard line and was poised to score another touchdown and grab the lead for the first time when Jackson was strip-sacked by Steelers’ outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
The loose ball was recovered by inside linebacker Vince Williams, ended a promising drive that appeared destined to end with seven points or at worst three via field goal but instead, the game remained tied.
Jackson held the ball much longer than he should’ve and didn’t exhibit good awareness in the pocket with a potent pass rush crashing fast and furious off the edge.
“We were talking about that all week, getting the ball out quick,” Jackson said. “If that had happened, it would’ve been no fumble.”
Despite the two first-half turnovers and losing two starting offensive linemen, Jackson was able to lead a pair of scoring drives in the second quarter to build a 10-point lead heading into halftime.
The defense continued to take care of business on the first drive of the second half by forcing a Pittsburgh punt after four plays but had to come right back on the field with the Steelers deep in the Ravens territory after Jackson was intercepted on his first throw of the second half by outside linebacker Alex Highsmith on an ill-advised lofted pass.
“I had Pat (Ricard) in the flat,” Jackson said. “He (Highsmith) looked like he was going to defend Pat. But when I threw it out to Mark, he dropped over to Mark. He fell off and made a great play.”
Two plays later the Ravens had their lead cut from 10 points to just a field goal advantage and the Steelers had some life with some momentum to feed off of.
The defense had to come back on the field after a break that lasted less than two minutes because the offense went three and out and punted it back to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers went on a 10-play drive that spanned 57 yards and ended with a one-yard touchdown run from running back James carter to give the visitors the lead for the second time after looking clearly outclassed and outmatched in the first half.
Jackson’s fourth and final turnover came with the Ravens knocking on the door of scoring the game-winning touchdown.
Baltimore marched 67 yards to Pittsburgh’s eight-yard line with less than two and a half minutes left in the game by using their dominant rushing attack exclusively.
On the 10th play of the drive facing a fourth-and-three, Jackson called his own number on a quarterback draw and was not only stopped a yard short of picking up a first down but fumbled for the third time and for the second time it was recovered by the opposition.
The Ravens still had a chance to win in the end and a controversial no-call by the officiating crew cost Baltimore a chance to score the game-winning touchdown on an untimed down.
However, if weren’t for Jackson’s pivotal turnovers that directly led to points for Pittsburgh or at least put them in position to score and cost the Ravens points and precious momentum, it wouldn’t have come down to the wire and Baltimore would’ve cruised to a double-digit win by two or more possessions.
“He played hard. He made a lot of plays. The turnovers, obviously, were disappointing. … That’s the difference in the game in some ways, obviously,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re disappointed with that part of it. We’re very happy with other parts of it. I thought he competed, made a lot of great throws and runs and things like that. So, it’s a mixed bag in that sense, but of course, we’re not pleased with losing the turnover battle.”
Jackson had a historically high bar to clear or even match coming into this season after his historic MVP campaign last season.
He hasn’t quite looked like the same force of nature that tore the league asunder in 2019 and opposing teams are definitely defending the Ravens offense and him specifically differently in 2020.
Some statistical regression following his breakout year was expected but what cannot happen going forward if he intends on being the one that leads the team to their third championship in franchise history is days like he had on Sunday where he turned the ball over so many times and especially in crucial situations.
“I feel we’re in a great spot,” Jackson said. “We just have to finish. Our defense played great, our offense did good. No turnovers, we win this game.”
He needs to be able to raise his game when the Ravens face legit Superbowl contenders and quality opponents, not cost his team points and squander momentum when he has the opportunity to get back in the game like in the loss to the Chiefs or put it away for good like in the loss to the Steelers.