The Ravens have lost just once on a short week since 2016. That can have its downsides, coach John Harbaugh joked Wednesday.
“You know what the guys will say,” he said. “‘You should always have a short week. Why are we spending so much time at this stuff?’”
Whatever their process is, it’s worked for their star quarterback time and again. Faced with a condensed work week — as the Ravens (4-1) are this week, with just five days to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers (4-1) — Lamar Jackson is undefeated as an NFL starter.
Over three-plus seasons in Baltimore, Jackson is 8-0 in short-week games, excelling in everything from Sunday-to-Thursday turnarounds to Monday-to-Sunday swings to illness-related limitations.
“We love football here,” he said Wednesday. “We’re ready to play our next opponent anyways. It’s just a quick turnaround to just get dialed in on the next opponent. That’s it. There’s nothing to it.”
Jackson’s first short-week experience as a starter, coincidentally enough, came in 2018 against the Chargers. After league officials finalized the Ravens’ Week 16 matchup as a Saturday game, Jackson had one less day to prepare for a cross-country flight and talented defense. He seemed to make the most of his time, finishing 12-for-22 for 204 yards and a touchdown and adding 13 carries for 39 yards in the 22-10 win.
Jackson’s next seven games with a slimmed-down schedule showed the range of his potential. In 2019, he followed up a just-good-enough performance over the San Francisco 49ers (105 yards passing, 101 yards rushing) with a surgical dissection of the New York Jets (five touchdown passes, 134.4 passer rating) 11 days later.
Last season, Jackson authored two of his more impressive performances despite scaled-back run-ups. After contracting the coronavirus, he barely practiced ahead of the Ravens’ Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys, then posted a 101.8 passer rating and ran 13 times for 94 yards in a comfortable win. Six nights later, he returned just in time from late-game cramps to ward off the Cleveland Browns’ rally on “Monday Night Football.” He finished with 163 yards passing and 124 yards rushing.
Even Jackson’s worst-rated passing performance on a short week couldn’t derail the Ravens. In their Week 2 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last month, he finished 18-for-26 for 239 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions (78.8 rating). But he had 16 carries for two touchdowns and a game-high 107 yards, including the decisive fourth-and-1 plunge that put the game away.
Jackson struggled in last season’s divisional-round loss to a well-rested Buffalo Bills team. But in the regular season, his career passer rating on five days of rest or fewer (111.9) would rank sixth among qualifying 2021 quarterbacks, regardless of circumstances. He’s also averaged 79.9 rushing yards in such games, with 6.9 yards per carry. Jackson’s career marks fall below those short-week stats.
“Our guys recover, they work on it, they get to work on the game plan,” Harbaugh said. “We do a pretty good job of pacing the practices out, I think, and try to get the guys to the game as energetic as they can be. But beyond that, you’ve just got to go play the game, and the players have to play well and find a way to win the game.”