On Sunday, quarterback Lamar Jackson will get his third try at both beating the Tennessee Titans and winning his first playoff game. Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs for the third time in as many years but they’ll need to fix earlier mistakes, as their game against the Titans will easily be their biggest test of the season. The Titans knocked the Ravens out of the 2019 playoffs and beat them again Week 11 of 2020 in a 30-24 overtime contest.
Baltimore’s 2019 playoff loss to Tennessee was a failure on multiple levels. Jackson was forced to throw the ball an insane 59 times, turned the ball over three times, the receivers dropped seven passes, and the Ravens run defense could not contain the free-running Derrick Henry. In 2020, their loss was a little more tightly contested. The Titans came away with the win but were largely reliant on the Ravens shooting themselves in the foot. John Harbaugh‘s team could not stay disciplined at the most crucial moments and Jackson and the Ravens offense had one of the least efficient games of his career.
Jackson and the rest of the Ravens may feel hard done by their loss earlier in the season, but they have the means to fix their mistakes and get their quarteraback his first career playoff win this upcoming week. These are the mistakes the Baltimore Ravens have to fix in order to beat the Titans on Super Wild Card Weekend.
Baltimore Ravens Can Fix Their Earlier Mistakes In Tennessee Titans Rematch
Ravens Positives From Their First Game in 2020
While the Ravens dropped their first matchup with the Titans of 2020, they did a number of things right. The main positive was how they held the Titans running back largely in check for the majority of the game.
Henry, the league’s leading rusher in 2020, finished the game with 133 yards on 28 attempts while finding the endzone once. His biggest run was his final run of the day — a 29-yard touchdown run that gave the Titans the win in overtime. However, up until that point, he had been almost a non-factor. Henry had just 44 yards on 18 carries going into the fourth but due to a depleted Ravens defensive line, was able to eventually wear down a banged-up unit. Justin Ellis led the Ravens interior defensive lineman in snaps against the Titans with 58. He did not even dress against the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday.
Ravens look to slow down Derrick Henry in Sunday's wild-card game.
In their past 20 games, Ravens have only allowed 4 100-yard rushers: Henry (twice), Damien Harris and Miles Sanders. https://t.co/d5dPzYwbW1
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) January 8, 2021
The Ravens will now likely have their entire interior defensive line healthy for their Wild Card game. Brandon Williams will be one of the most important players on either side of the ball as he was absent for their first matchup of 2020. He is Baltimore’s best run stopper and the Ravens have given up their three highest rushing yard totals in three of the four games he has missed.
If Baltimore hopes to pull out a Wild Card win, their top priority is containing Henry. It was near impossible for anyone to stop the 2,000+ yard rusher this year but Baltimore put up one of the best efforts against him while being undermanned when they saw him Week 11. They have a good chance to improve even further on their first try with a now-healthy defensive interior.
Baltimore Ravens Mistakes To Fix:
At this point in the season, the Ravens penalty problems are well documented. Baltimore finished the season with both the third-worst penalty differential and penalty yards against. They were also tied for the sixth-most pre-snap penalties in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns are the only playoff team with more.
Despite winning their past five games, the Ravens troubles have not gotten much better. Baltimore has averaged 6.5 penalties per game in 2020 and averaged 6.4 penalties per game over their five-game winning streak. However, their penalties yards per game have seen a slight decrease. Through the first 11 games of 2020, the Ravens averaged 65 penalty yards against and in their final five games averaged 49. Their penalty totals have been consistent but there is still a clear correlation between the Ravens penalties and their wins. Baltimore averaged 77.2 penalty yards in their five losses and almost a whole 25 yards less in their victories at 52.27.
Baltimore took six penalties for a combined 81 yards – their fourth most of 2020 – against the Titans Week 11. This included a Marlon Humphrey 39-yard pass interference call on Tennessee’s first offensive play of the game. Dez Bryant also failed to get set on a potential walk-in touchdown pass to Marquise Brown that could’ve given Baltimore a four-point lead with just 49 seconds left.
It’s easy for the Ravens to say they need to stay disciplined but executing it has been a little trickier on a consistent basis. If Harbaugh can keep his guys from taking too many bad penalties, Baltimore should have every chance to keep the game flow in their favor.
There aren’t a lot of losses that you can completely fault Lamar Jackson for in the entirety of his career. He has been about as dominant as a dual-threat quarterback as anyone could imagine throughout his first three seasons. A good example of this is his play against the Titans in the 2019 playoffs. Jackson was let down by his supporting cast throughout the game and was forced to almost completely pick apart the Titans by himself. The Week 11 loss in 2020 does not fall completely on his shoulders but it was not one of his stronger games this season.
Jackson finished the game going 17-29 for 186 yards, a passer rating of 74.8, and both a passing touchdown and an interception. He added 51 yards on 13 rushing attempts. To put that into perspective, Jackson has only had one other game with a passer rating under 90.0 and a rushing average of fewer than 4.0 yards per carry this season– the Ravens Week 4 27-3 win over the Bengals. Baltimore’s defense bailed out Jackson to the tune of seven sacks but he likely cannot rely on a similar result in Tennessee.
Since Jackson’s loss to the Titans this season, he has been red hot. In each of his past five games, he has a passer rating over 91.0 in each game (four of 101.0+) and 80 or more rushing yards in four. He accounted for 15 total touchdowns and the Ravens 6.85 yards per offensive play ranks second in the NFL. The Lamar Jackson the Titans saw Week 11 will not be the same one they see on Sunday. If Jackson stays hot, he will do two important things. First, help his team rack up points, and second, keep Derrick Henry out of the game-script.
"I'm taking the Ravens, they look good. They're back to being the Ravens & Lamar Jackson is back to being himself.”pic.twitter.com/zMsQ4usdQ0
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) January 5, 2021
Capitalize on Good Field Position
This might seem like an easy explanation for a team losing in the NFL but it heavily applies to the Ravens for this upcoming week. The trend has proceeded in both of the Ravens loss to the Titans and will likely decide their Super Wild Card game in 2021.
During their first playoff meeting, the Ravens scored just 12 points even though they had a total of 530 yards of total offense. A lot of their yards came during the ladder-half of the game but Jackson and the Ravens offense continually squandered their opportunities. Baltimore had eight possessions within Tennessee’s 36-yard line and came away with just one touchdown and two field goals. On the other five drives, they had two turnovers and three failed fourth-down conversions.
During their 2020 matchup, Baltimore had a similar issue. They were able to score points deep in Titans territory but settled for field goals far too often. Only one of the Ravens four red zone possessions ended in a touchdown and three separate drives stall within the Titans 12-yard line. In Jackson’s career, he has never thrown an interception in the red zone and has accounted for a total of 46 touchdowns.
Lamar Jackson has 46 Red Zone Pass TDs in his career to go along ZERO interceptions.
No one in NFL history has ever done that. pic.twitter.com/EEd224aoWT
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 3, 2021
The Titans are the NFL’s fourth-ranked total offense and second-ranked scoring offense and settling for three points with such good field position is an easy way to let them slowly grow a lead. If Baltimore wants to beat the Titans for the first time in the Lamar Jackson era, they can’t let the Titans hold them to field goals or worse, no points, when they have favorable field position.
Will Lamar Jackson Get His First Playoff Win?
The Ravens and Titans game looks to be the tightest of Super Wild Card weekend. Both teams are very good at running the ball and have two of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Even though the Ttians have a 2-0 advantage over Jackson and the Ravens, Baltimore is currently a 3.5-point favourite. It will be the third time in as many games against the Titans that the Ravens have been favoured.
For Jackson to get his first playoff win, he needs to do what he’s been doing over the past five weeks. The Baltimore Ravens offense has been red hot of late and looks like a team that will not repeat the same mistakes they’ve made against the Titans during their two previous meetings. Jackson’s 0-2 playoff record is likely on his mind but all he has to do is remain in the form that allowed him to win-out in the regular season, and find his way into the playoffs with his back to the wall.
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