OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The struggles of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter this season can be summed up by his costly interception in Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the New York Giants.
With three minutes remaining and the Ravens holding a three-point lead, Jackson picked up an errant shotgun snap and ran to his right to elude pressure. If he had thrown the ball away on third down, Baltimore would’ve punted the ball away and forced New York to go the length of the field. Instead, Jackson tossed an off-balanced, jump ball pass to 300-pound fullback Patrick Ricard that was picked off by the Giants and quickly converted into the winning touchdown.
"Many times you see Lamar come out of that and he'll go make a play,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "I have to balance that a little bit because of the unique quarterback that we have. But that's definitely one he's going to want back, there's no doubt about it.”
In the first three quarters this season, Jackson’s QBR (72) is the fourth-best in the league. In the fourth quarter, Jackson’s QBR (28) is 29th in the league.
But Jackson has been dealing with a supporting cast that's been in flux because of injuries. He hasn't played one game this year with his No. 1 wide receiver (Rashod Bateman) , No. 1 running back (J.K. Dobbins) and All-Pro left tackle (Ronnie Stanley)in the lineup together.
Asked if Jackson is trying to do too much, Harbaugh said: "You can describe it that way probably, and that situation [the interception] is probably a really apt description.”
After the game, Jackson shook the hands of about 20 players in the locker room.
“It was like, ‘Look, we know everything is going to be alright,” Ravens guard Kevin Zeitler said.
The Ravens know they could be one of the top teams in the NFL. There have been two teams who have held double-digit leads in their first six games: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Ravens. The Eagles (6-0) are the league’s only undefeated team, and the Ravens are 3-3 because of their inability to finish.
Of Jackson's 13 touchdown passes, 12 have come in the first three quarters. But four of Jackson’s six interceptions have occurred in the fourth quarter.
“We’re going to need [Jackson] in any and every aspect that he provides for this team; leadership, his physicality, his game-breaking ability,” Ravens running back Kenyan Drake said. "So, he’s going to obviously put a lot on his shoulders, but at the same time, we’re a team. He can’t do it by himself, I can’t do it by myself.
“You just have to continue to move forward with the things that we can control, which is moving forward with [our next opponent] Cleveland and making sure obviously [Jackson] gets on the bus, because we can’t do it without him.”
The Ravens have plenty of issues, which have led Baltimore to blowing three double-digit leads in the first six games of the season. There have been untimely penalties (an illegal formation on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter), busted coverages in the secondary and questionable playcalling on offense (Kenyan Drake only ran the ball 10 times despite averaging 11.9 yards per carry).
But Jackson can offset a lot of mistakes when he’s on top of his game. The Ravens just don’t usually overcome errors when he isn’t sharp.
Baltimore is 22-1 when Jackson has a QBR over 70. The Ravens are 18-14 when his QBR is below 70.
“Lamar is the man. It just isn’t on him, it’s on a lot of us,” Zeitler said. "He never gets too high or too low. I guarantee you he’s already focused on next week.”
Jackson just has to get back to playing like himself. He’s already thrown two interceptions outside the pocket this season — including Sunday’s haphazard one — after only getting picked off once outside the pocket in his first four seasons. His fumble on Baltimore's final drive was the first time he lost the ball with under two minutes in a game in which the Ravens were trailing.
"You can’t put it on him when he is the reason why we win so many games,” Ricard said. “You can’t put more pressure on him.”