While it sounds as though the Baltimore Ravens are gearing up to see more of Joe Flacco on the practice field this week, the evident plan going into the week is that rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson will be starting his fourth game in a row as the veteran continues to work his way back from a hip injury that could get worse if they are not careful with him.
The team has won each of the past three games with him under center, and they were just 4-5 before that. The winning streak has unquestionably saved their season, but up next is the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the best teams in the league coming in with a 10-2 record and 10 touchdowns from Patrick Mahomes over the past two weeks.
Compare that to Jackson’s one touchdown, those he has also scrambled for a couple of scores. While he has rushed for over 250 yards, however, that has also come with concerns over ball security. He has put the ball on the ground five times already in the past three games, including three on Sunday.
Said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, “I’d like to see us protect the football a little bit better than we have in the last few weeks. That’ll be really critical in this game, I think, the turnovers, both ways. Those are some things to work on, too”.
The Chiefs have 20 takeaways this season, which ranks ninth in the league, compared to Baltimore’s nine, which is the third-fewest in the NFL. Nine of the Chiefs’ takeaways have come from fumble recoveries, the other 11 being interceptions of course. They have produced three touchdowns off of turnovers, including two from interceptions and one from a fumble.
So what is the plan to stop Kansas City from getting to Jackson? “Hold onto the ball tight”, the rookie said. “One, I’m trying to keep the ball in my hands, break out the pocket — no fumble. We can’t have those. We just can’t be risking that down the field. That’s a great team we’re about to play, and we’re just going to try to do a good job and keep the ball in our hands”.
Jackson has been far from great as a passer so far this season, in the pocket or otherwise, but he has been able to do enough over the past few weeks to give the Ravens a chance to win games, often on defense and special teams. He is obviously a running threat and has helped the running backs as well. But he doesn’t think as much about what he has done well as he does what he has done wrong.
“Sometimes, I don’t even remember the great things that happen”, he said. “I just always focus on the bad things, because I want to make it great. I don’t think about it like, ‘man, I messed up. Keep it pounding’. I think about it, I’ll forget about it, but at the same time, it’s always in my mind”.