Lamar Jackson will hope the Baltimore Ravens can emerge from their recent slump and at the same time exorcise some demons when they play the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
The Ravens have lost two of their last three NFL games and dropped to 6-3, leaving them a long way behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0) atop the AFC North.
A stacked AFC in 2020 means they, like the Titans who have the same record, still have work to do if they are to ensure a return the postseason.
While the Ravens remain one of the league’s strongest teams with a fierce running game and their MVP quarterback Jackson to call upon, they have not looked quite the same since their stunning playoff loss to the Titans in January.
How Henry heroics eliminated Ravens
The Ravens had gone 14-2 in the 2019 regular season and went into the playoffs as number one seed in the AFC.
Few issues were expected when they took on the sixth seed Titans, who went on to record an incredible 28-12 upset, leaving Lamar one and done in the playoffs for a second straight year with an offseason to ponder what had gone wrong.
It was a game that produced some unusual numbers. Per Stats Perform data, it was the first time since 2010 that a sixth seed team had beaten a number one outfit, while the 12 points scored by the Ravens were the fewest in Jackson’s 33 career starts.
The incredible Derrick Henry ran all over the Ravens with 195 yards on the ground and the Titans RB even threw a touchdown pass, just the second player ever in postseason history to do that while recording 190+ rushing yards (after Freeman McNeil in 1982).
Nearly 200 yards rushing and…a passing touchdown?
That was @KingHenry_2 vs. the Ravens in the playoffs last year.
— NFL (@NFL) November 20, 2020
The Ravens were beaten despite racking up 530 total yards, the third-most all-time by a losing team in the postseason.
Jackson was productive with 365 pass yards and 143 on the ground, becoming – despite a defeat – the only player in postseason history with 300+ yards through the air while also reaching three figures on the ground.
But it was a game that raised doubts which are yet to be dispelled over whether the Ravens offense – featuring a prominent rushing attack and ball control strategy which thrives with the lead – is capable of launching a pass-heavy comeback after falling behind.
Ravens, Jackson not the same in 2020
Since that loss, the Ravens and Jackson have not looked the same, despite holding a respectable record.
The Ravens and Titans both sit 6-3, but the AFC has multiple contending and struggling teams without much in between, leading to a competitive playoff picture.
There are nine teams with records of 6-3 or better, while six teams are 3-6 or worse, with the 4-5 New England Patriots the only middling team in the conference.
The Ravens started the season 5-1 and had just five giveaways, but then had six giveaways in going 1-2 since, losing to Pittsburgh and New England either side of a win over the Indianapolis Colts.
They have fumbled four times in the red zone this season, second-most in the NFL, having not turned the ball over at all in 64 such drives across 2019.
to the game: pic.twitter.com/DGvLkrqVvy
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 20, 2020
As for Jackson, his passing yards per game (208.5 to 195.8), yards per attempt (7.8 to 7.1) and rushing yards (80.4 to 58.2) have all declined significantly since last season.
Jackson threw for 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions with eight total giveaways as the Ravens went 13-2 in 15 games before their Titans playoff loss.
Including that game, they have gone 6-4 since, with Jackson’s TD/INT numbers declining to 15/7, with more giveaways (11) even over the shorter timeframe.
The QB’s completion rate has fallen from 66.1 to 61.8 in the same period.
Adding weight to the argument Jackson struggles to lead his team from behind, Stats Perform data shows the Ravens are 1-5 when trailing after the first quarter, as they were against the Titans.
That is compared to 19-1 when leading after 15 minutes and 5-2 on occasions where the score was level.
Jackson remains a unique threat and on Sunday he could become the first QB to rush for 2,500 yards inside three seasons – he goes into the game on 2,425, already an NFL record.
But of 47 previous instances where a QB has rushed for over 500 yards in a season, only one (Russell Wilson in 2013), has gone on to win the Super Bowl.
If the Ravens are to improve on that statistic, a convincing performance against another contending team is needed.
Doing so against a Titans group that ended their playoff hopes so dramatically in 2019 would help to change the narrative in a season which is not going as smoothly as expected.