Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson entered Sunday’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers with 124 rushing attempts, 31 more than any other quarterback in the NFL.
Jackson has done a good job of avoiding big hits in the open field this season, but Ravens players took issue with what they believed were multiple uncalled late hits from 49ers defenders in the team’s 20-17 home win.
“I think they definitely were trying to take advantage of [Jackson], man, as far as once he got past the line of scrimmage or running out of bounds,” right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said after the game. “They wanted to get him down, and whatever it was, get as many touches and as many hits on him as possible.
“It’s unfortunate. A few times, I think it should’ve been a penalty. But that’s not my responsibility. That’s on the refs, man. But Lamar did a great job popping back up and getting right back to it.”
San Francisco was flagged twice for roughing the passer when Jackson was in the pocket. On a third-quarter run, Jackson was shoved out of bounds along the Ravens’ sideline by 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman.
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Referees initially threw their flags but later announced that there was no penalty for a late hit out of bounds. The decision drew the ire of the announced 71,000 fans at M&T Bank Stadium and coach John Harbaugh, who had words for Sherman.
“[Harbaugh] was saying I made a dirty play on Lamar,” Sherman said. “The quarterback was running like a running back. If you don’t touch him, then he runs up the sideline, and if you do touch him, it’s like everyone is throwing up the hubbub.
“That is where it is tough on defensive players. Every play where the quarterback runs, they are like, ‘Oh my God, that should be a flag,’ but he was running just a half-second ago, and you are making a split-second decision, like ‘Hey, I’ve got to tackle him,' and then he slides. It is a tough position to put the defense in, but I think our guys did a great job.”
In his seven starts last season, Jackson left multiple games because of injury and didn’t return for the final play in a road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jackson said he added 10 to 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason to absorb more hits without injury.
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon empathized with the plight of opposing defenses facing Jackson, saying he understands the difficulties of pursuing a running quarterback, while also complimenting the refs for flagging “egregious” hits.
“It’s just old-school football,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Back in the day, the quarterback runs, you try to take him out the game, so they don’t have an offense. Obviously that was the game plan today, but Lamar is a tough guy. He’s a big quarterback, he can run the ball like a running back. ... It doesn’t look like Lamar was even fazed by it.”