You weren’t the only one counting Steve Bisciotti’s money and suddenly growing alligator arms when Lamar Jackson threw that hideously awful pass across his body. As it sailed woefully and haphazardly in the general direction of Pat Ricard and somehow hit New York Giants safety Julian Love between the 2 and the oh, this scene of sudden disaster felt all-too familiar on the Meadowlands turf.
When Lamar Jackson spins and wins, spills and thrills, the whole city wants him paid in full for the next five years and a statue erected to the Super Bowl he might one day win. But when Lamar Jackson loses, everyone takes the Stockholm Syndrome side of the pobre billionaire and wants to hide Bisciotti’s wallet and be glad he drew the line on the quarterback no one else wanted because they didn’t believe he’d be accurate enough or consistent enough to win enough games in the NFL to win a Super Bowl.
It’s not hyperbole to say that the Baltimore Ravens go as No. 8 goes. He is 40-15 as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
And one thing is certain: when Lamar Jackson plays poorly – and most of Sunday was another poor effort throwing the ball where he actually wanted to throw it, especially the long ball – the Baltimore Ravens are going to have a whole lot of trouble trying to close football games against competent competition. And when he is the sole deliverer of the football with the game on the line straight into the hands of the other team’s secondary mindlessly flipping the field late in a tight game on the road, well…it’s just unacceptable.
There are many reasons that the Ravens have blown three historically very-difficult-to-pull-off miracle losses in the last four weeks – squandering significant 4th quarter leads of varying degree to have no answers in the aftermath other than “watching more film” and “looking in the mirror.”
Even the-always-automatic Justin Tucker missed a tough kick yesterday with three points the team could’ve used two hours later.
The Ravens now limp back home against the annually underwhelming Cleveland Browns an exactly-what-their-record-says-they-are 3-3 team with a trio of the most heinous “bad beats” in the history of the franchise that are giving local fans the shakes.
The pedigree and legend of the Baltimore Ravens franchise is defense and closing out games. And that’s not happening right now – in addition to their quarterback reading his Superman clips and sometimes trying to fly when it would be better to just punt or dirt the ball and live another day.
The “Ravens are not hitting panic button after another late collapse” headline and refrain have now been written twice before. And sure, they’ve lost to three mostly-formidable NFL outfits with playoff aspirations, but the history of the sport has rarely seen anything as uncanny as this team’s ability to urinate away almost-sure wins over the first six weeks of the 2022 season.
Ravens players can say they’re beating themselves (and who is to argue?) but the other teams are the ones claiming victory by forcing these big fourth quarter plays and taking advantage of dumb penalties, mental mistakes, and yes, even those referees that are always trying to screw the Ravens.
Others on the roster made their fair share of mistakes on the road to a galling loss but this one lies on the back foot of the starting quarterback who wants to be the highest-paid player in North American sports.
Chad Steele can “protect” Lamar Jackson after he throws a lollipop that costs the team the game and limit the questions and line of questioning but he can’t protect No. 8 from the real scrutiny of wins and losses and where he’ll be playing his football in the future. Just because I’m not there asking Lamar Jackson the questions doesn’t mean they’re not being asked by Steve Bisciotti, Eric Decosta and John Harbaugh – in addition to the fanbase and NFLPA folks all over the country – because they are.
The red light, green light approach to giving Lamar a couple of hundred million guaranteed dollars and complete control of the operation and the face of the future of the franchise works like a Fogo de Chao “I want steak” flip-of-the-coaster button of gluttony. It’s feast or famine on the raw meat of the postgame conversation and losing another double-digit lead in the fourth quarter is bigger and deeper than any one lousy pass from the quarterback with the game on the line.
Calais Campbell said, “We’re not going to hit the panic button” but that’s not going to stop the fan base from keeping their collective finger on it. No one in Baltimore is ever going to get comfortable with the Ravens blowing games late with gaffes that are as Coach HardBall says “below the bar.”
Ronnie Stanley got flagged for lining up poorly but that was a receiver issue on the edge. Marcus Peters got flagged in the endzone. Justin Tucker missed a field goal. Marlon Humphrey watched some balls caught in front of him. And yes, Lamar Jackson missed some key throws long before he committed the fatal flaw of rolling to the right and throwing across his body on a very low percentage sling that he has been coached to never make – and with good reason.
This time it was the jettisoned defensive coordinator Wink Martindale who got the last laugh and Brian Daboll and the suddenly mighty 5-1 Giants who were ordering Saquon Barkley to go full turtle on the goal line to make sure that Lamar Jackson couldn’t even walk back onto the field inside the two-minute warning at Met Life Stadium.
On a day when the Ravens ran the ball very effectively and found a new weapon in Kenyan Drake (as J.K. Dobbins had a tight knee and that feels like another major problem), it wasn’t the Greg Roman offense or his 406 yards of play calling that failed the Ravens. The Ravens pounded the ball pretty nicely on the ground and still managed to lose.
And losing meant losing ground on Sunday. The AFC North is bad enough that anyone can win it. The Steelers beat Tom Brady. The Bengals went down to the bayou, oh lawd, and Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase marched the Saints home. The Browns will be angry when they get here on Sunday and are 60 minutes away from somehow potentially sending the Ravens into the cellar of the division.
It’s a week for mirrors and leaders and accountability.
You can always count on Marlon Humphrey to wither in the postgame after a loss – his weak, immature act on the post-game podium on Sunday was typical – but you know you can also be assured his “leadership” will be first when it’s time to do a things-he-doesn’t-understand-about-the-world podcast or to be vaguebooking in the postgame Twittersphere in the direction of his coaches and teammates.
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
And just what is that “same thing” besides losing games they shouldn’t?
It doesn’t take the brilliance of Albert Einstein to figure out that giving the ball away, making bad decisions, creating penalties that open the door and providing complimentary first downs for your opponent in the final quarter of a football game will get you blown up on the road in the NFL.
Now, what are the Baltimore Ravens – collectively – going to do about it?
It better start with finding a way to not lose to the Cleveland Browns before visiting Tom Brady on short rest. The next 10 days are gonna be tight around here.