In what was undoubtedly the wildest game of the Ravens season, Baltimore’s flaws were all exposed and led to a loss that shouldn’t have been.
It appeared the Ravens would get away with another close victory. Right when they needed it most, trailing by a single point late in the fourth quarter, Lamar Jackson delivered the most unexpected throw of the game — a beautiful 62-yard rainbow to 35-year-old wideout DeSean Jackson. A few plays later, with 2:10 left, the Ravens were up by seven.
Everything that happened after that — along with other costly mistakes beforehand — the Ravens must now take lessons from — or, barring that, forget it all and try to move on. Their win streak is over and the AFC North race has grown increasingly tight.
It was a frustrating day on so many fronts. A defense that looked like it had put its early-season fourth-quarter collapses well behind it allowed Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence to direct a career-defining (to this point, at least) two-minute, go-ahead, 10-play, 75-yard drive, capped by an almost perfunctory game-winning two-point conversion.
Of course, the Ravens let the Jaguars stick around to get to that point. There were five lead changes overall and 33 combined points scored in the final 15 minutes of play. The Jaguars go-ahead drive included a third-and-21 conversion. And, somehow, after all of the late-game drama, Justin Tucker still had a chance to win the game with two seconds left on a 67-yard field goal attempt from beyond the Jaguars logo at midfield. The kick was typically Tucker straight and would have been good if only the Ravens were about five yards closer.
If only. That might be the best phrase to use to analyze this game. The bottom line is the Jaguars beat the Ravens, 28-27, snapping their four-game winning streak and suddenly dropping them in a tie atop the division standings with the 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals (the Ravens do currently have the tie-breaker, though). But there were a whole lot of plays that the Ravens left on the field at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, over three-plus hours on Sunday afternoon.
Jackson, who showed welcome flashes of explosiveness given his sick and injured status lately, took nearly five minutes of reporters’ questions afterward, and encapsulated the entire story in his final five words. “We shouldn’t have lost, man,” he said before walking away from the microphone.
If only the Ravens had scored one or two touchdowns instead of four field goals on four trips inside the Jaguars’ 20-yard line earlier in the game. If only Jackson hadn’t overthrown Demarcus Robinson on the first drive of the game or tight end Josh Oliver on the Ravens’ impressive first possession of the second half, both of which would have been good for touchdowns if they connected.
If only the Ravens secondary was able to better contain a wideout by the name of Zay Jones, who among other things, caught a key fourth-and-eight throw across the middle of a two-deep zone that helped the Jaguars move downfield on a drive in which they pulled within two with 5:55 left. If only running back Gus Edwards, playing his first game in a month, didn’t fumble from the Ravens own 11-yard line right after that. The turnover, the Ravens second lost fumble of the day, set up a chip-shot 29-yard go-ahead field goal by Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson with 4:19 left. Jackson guided the Ravens downfield quickly with the bomb to Jackson, the veteran playing in his only his second game for Baltimore, then a play-action touchdown toss to Oliver with nearly two minutes left. A two-point conversion to Mark Andrews followed. It looked like a winning offensive sequence.
If only the Ravens defense, under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, was able to come up with just one stop on the Jaguars final drive. Lawrence picked apart the Ravens secondary — which didn’t have safety Kyle Hamilton, then lost corner Marlon Humphrey — on the final drive, including a key fourth-down throw to Marvin Jones with 1:15 to go, before finding Jones again on the sideline of the end zone with only 12 ticks left. Jones, with Marcus Peters on coverage, appeared to just get enough of a shin to the ground to complete the 10-yard touchdown catch, which was reviewed and stood as called on the field. Then, for the two-point dagger, Lawrence fired another dart on a short out to Zay Jones, who finished with 11 receptions for 145 yards.
“It stings,” said veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who returned to Jacksonville, where he played three seasons. “To have the game in our hands as a defense, we expect to win that every time. We didn’t get it done. We knew they were talented. They fought hard and made the plays to win the game … but this one definitely stings. We had plays to get off the field and we didn’t get them.”
It didn’t seem like the Ravens were overlooking the Jaguars. Coach John Harbaugh referenced this past week that he’d heard people describe them as the “best” 3-7 team in the NFL. It was certainly hard to dispute that claim by the end of this one. The Jaguars fought back despite losing their top offensive threat, running back Travis Etienne, who left the game with a foot injury late in the first quarter.
But the Ravens gave themselves little room for error, mainly by not converting in the red zone when they could. That was a particular frustration for Jackson, who afterward said he unfortunately had no explanation for the offense stalling close to the goal-line.
“We looked crisp in practice,” Jackson said. “We just missed opportunities. When you’re playing in a game like this, you can’t miss those. You need everything — catches, throws, you need everything to put points on the board ... I don’t know what to tell you. You see it. I’m seeing it. I’m trying to make it happen. We’re just not clicking in the red zone.”
What might be similarly disheartening to hear is that the quarterback also said the loss reminded him of ones earlier in the year. Frankly, this might not have been as statistically bad as those, where the Ravens defense infamously blew multiple double-digit leads, but it was the same outcome. A good quarterback carved up the Ravens secondary at a fast pace with the game on the line.
“We have to watch the tape. I really don’t know,” Campbell said of what happened on the final drive. “I know we had opportunities and we didn’t get them done. It’s hard to see out on the field in the moment, but I know up front we got to find a way to get our hands on up balls, make them uncomfortable and get off the field. If we want to go where we think we’re capable of going, that’s something that has to be done.”
The Ravens led 6-0 at the end of the first quarter powered by a pair of short Tucker field goals, an 11-play opening drive, and a fourth-and-short stop by the Ravens defense near midfield.
The Jaguars then got a fourth-down stop of their own on a botched Jackson quarterback sneak that went more sideways than forward and ended with a fumble. If only, again. On the ensuing drive, Lawrence found running back JaMychal Hasty, who slipped behind Peters, in stride down the sideline for a 28-yard touchdown.
On the Ravens next possession and trailing for the first time, Jackson converted a pair of third-and-longs — the first on a 10-yard run and the next via an 8-yard pass to DeSean Jackson — then Tucker added a 55-yarder to give the Ravens a 9-7 lead.
Lawrence, who began 10-for-12 passing, led the Jaguars on an impressively long drive just before halftime. They couldn’t get into the end zone, but took a 10-9 advantage with nine seconds left in the second quarter.
A Tucker field goal put the Ravens up 12-10 midway through the third quarter to end what started like a hot drive with three straight first downs, but bogged down near the goal line once again. “We didn’t do a good job in the red zone,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something we have to improve.”
For a while, it actually looked like the Ravens were going to post a second-half shutout, especially after linebacker Tyus Bowser’s crushing, fumble-inducing sack of Lawrence late in the third quarter. Peters fell on the ball, and Jackson ripped off a pair of nice runs — stutter-stepping and juking along the way (we even saw an attempted spin move earlier) — to put the Ravens inside the Jaguars’ 1-yard line. The quarterback nearly scored, but his knee was ruled down short of the goal line. Edwards got the final inches for a touchdown and nine-point lead.
That’s when things began to get really interesting, Lawrence came to life, Jackson connected unexpectedly with another Jackson, and the Ravens defense unraveled down the stretch.
- In the second quarter, Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 700 yards in a season four different times.
- Tucker has now made 91 straight field goals from less than 30 yards, the longest such streak of any active player.
- Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who hurt his left ankle last week, did not travel with the team to Florida. Versatile offensive lineman Patrick Mekari made his third start of the season in Stanley’s place.
- Harbaugh said Humphrey twisted his ankle.
- The game began near 1:25 p.m., about 20 minutes late, because of thunderstorms, but the skies cleared for the rest of the afternoon in Jacksonville.
Corey McLaughlin is a veteran writer and editor who has covered sports in Baltimore for a decade, including for Baltimore magazine, USA Lacrosse Magazine and several other publications.