If Allen Iverson were in the room, he’d have one question for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson: “Practice?”
After Baltimore’s 28-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, in which the Ravens failed to score a touchdown on their first three trips into the red zone, Jackson said time and again that their offensive execution in practice is there. In practice, the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player can orchestrate sustained drives. In practice, the ball gets into the end zone for touchdowns.
But there’s a problem.
It’s only practice.
Baltimore wasted several opportunities on offense in its latest meltdown Sunday. A fumble by running back Gus Edwards in the fourth quarter was the most glaring mistake, setting up a late Jacksonville field goal. But that was hardly the lone misstep, with narrowly missed passes — and several dropped — leaving the door cracked open for the Jaguars to burst through late.
“We look good in practice,” Jackson said. “We get in the game, like I said, we had opportunities. Sometimes we just don’t hit. We hit one late in the game, went up, but still, I feel like if we scored early, the game would look different.”
The Ravens drove deep into Jacksonville territory on both of their first two drives, but each one stalled and forced kicker Justin Tucker to put three points on the board. Twice Jackson had Demarcus Robinson open, and twice they couldn’t connect — once on a deep ball in which Robinson was behind his defender and again on a pass to the back of the end zone.
And on the Ravens’ first possession of the third quarter, Jackson had the look he wanted. Tight end Josh Oliver was open down the seam, streaking into the end zone, yet Jackson’s pass was just out of reach. Baltimore settled for another field goal.
Baltimore Ravens Insider
Including another trip into Jacksonville territory, four of Baltimore’s first six possessions ended in field goals. With those 12 points, there was hardly any separation on the scoreboard, even as the defense held the Jaguars to 10 points, three punts, a turnover on downs and a fumble through three quarters.
“We got stopped,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You try to work all your best plays. Sometimes you think you can run it in, you try to run it in and you get stopped. Sometimes you try to pass it in. We just didn’t do a good job in the red zone. That’s the bottom line. You get down there and you kick, what, four field goals? That’s tough. Those are big trips down there, and obviously touchdowns are what we’re looking for, and that’s something we’ll have to improve on going forward.”
The red-zone inefficiencies aren’t exclusive to Sunday. Even during a four-game winning streak, the Ravens’ offense has looked off-kilter. Against the Panthers last Sunday they punted seven times and managed just 13 points against one of the league’s lowest-ranked defenses. Entering Sunday, the Ravens scored touchdowns on 52.6% of their red-zone possessions, ranking 21st in the league.
But Baltimore has converted at a lesser rate than that over the past five weeks, including Sunday, with 10 of its 21 trips into the red zone resulting in touchdowns.
“We look crisp in practice and stuff like that,” Jackson said. “We just missed opportunities. When you’re playing in a game like this, in a tough environment, you can’t miss those. Catches, throws, we need everything. Put points on the board, separate and help our defense.”
There’s only so much a defense can do, especially when the door remains open for a comeback despite ample chances to slam it shut. The Ravens might find success in those areas in practice. But when it comes to games, there’s plenty left to be desired.
And in Sunday’s collapse, those inefficiencies were blatant — and a key reason for the bitter taste of leaving Jacksonville at 7-4.