Lamar Jackson’s touchdown streak is over – although a case could be argued that it shouldn’t be.
Two weeks after rushing for the first score of his fledgling NFL career and one week after throwing for his first touchdown, the rookie quarterback was on the cusp of completing the trifecta and catching a pass for the score. But the organization’s second of two first-round selections in April’s NFL draft was bypassed by quarterback Joe Flacco in the first quarter of Sunday’s eventual 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.
On third-and-goal at Pittsburgh’s 5-yard line, Jackson was lined up on the left side as a receiver and went in motion to the right side with no one following him. When the ball was snapped, Jackson was wide open along the right sideline, but Flacco overthrew wide receiver John Brown, who was double-covered in the back of the end zone. The Ravens were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal from kicker Justin Tucker.
“I don’t know,” Jackson said when asked what happened. “I’m really a check-down, but I don’t know what happened. I guess he saw something.”
Jackson pointed out that he is generally a decoy on that play. And as a first-year player, he said, he is not about to criticize Flacco, an 11-year veteran who helped the franchise win its second Super Bowl to cap the 2012 season.
“We needed that, but he made some good plays,” Jackson said. “So I’m not going to get down on him about that one. That’s just one play.”
Flacco echoed Jackson’s note that he is toward the bottom of Flacco’s reads on that play.
“If you remember, we were kind of rushing around there,” said Flacco, who completed 23 of 37 passes for 209 yards, was sacked twice, and did not throw a touchdown pass for the second time this season. “It didn’t get off perfect, and he’s the last guy out of probably five guys out there anyways. It’s one of those where maybe you wish you had extended the play and ended up seeing it late.”
Jackson had another chance to reach the end zone in the second quarter when he lined up in the shotgun on third-and-2 at the Steelers’ 4, but he lost a yard while attempting to run off right tackle, leading to another 23-yard field goal from Tucker.
Jackson, who finished with five carries for 10 yards and one pass for 12 yards, chastised himself for being unable to punch the ball in for a score that might have cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 14-10.
“It was supposed to be a touchdown, but we didn’t get it,” he said. “I’m mad about that. I don’t like that. We’re too close to not score.”
Jackson — who also fumbled an exchange with rookie running back Gus Edwards, but was rescued when Edwards recovered the loose ball — said his individual performance did not matter in light of the team’s third consecutive loss heading into its bye week and then a post-bye home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We lost,” he said. “It’s not good at all. My overall [goal] is coming out with a ‘W,’ and we didn’t. So we’ve just got to get back in two weeks and get ready for the Bengals.”
Jackson is still in the developmental stage of his career and has been employed occasionally on the same field as Flacco with Flacco barely moving when he has lined up as a receiver. Coach John Harbaugh rejected a question probing whether Jackson’s packages are counterproductive.
“I don’t think counterproductive because we’re gaining yards and making plays,” Harbaugh said. “I would like to find more of it, to be honest with you. I would like to see him out there more and find ways to get him on the field more if we can. He’s a good player. That’s not easy to do. The Saints came in here a couple weeks ago and put their two quarterbacks out there 24 times, I think. Whether that’s something we do in the future, we’ll have to decide. Our offensive coaches do a good job of working through that stuff.”
Jackson said he does not concern himself with how many snaps he gets or if he feels he should be more involved in the offense. His priority is being a greater contributor.
“It’s very cool, but I feel like I need to do more,” he said. “We need to score more points. That’s all. I’ve got to help my team move the ball.”