Here’s why it’s cool: Not that long ago, Baltimore dealt with one of the NFL’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, one that sent the Ravens into a tailspin as they lost four of five games. That prompted many to leave them for dead.
But Baltimore is back. Since its Dec. 2 loss to Pittsburgh, the Ravens have won five games in a row, and Jackson’s play during that stretch — where he completed 67 percent of his passes and racked up 15 touchdown passes to only four turnovers — couldn’t be ignored, especially as Baltimore heads into a wild-card game against the team that ruined its dream season last year, the Tennessee Titans.
If Baltimore is going to get revenge, then the Ravens will need Jackson to vanquish his postseason demons and kill it on the field. Jackson is just 24, but he has lost both his playoff starts in his career and struggled mightily in the process, completing only 51 percent of his passes while turning the ball over five times and taking 11 sacks in those games.
So in this week’s edition of the original Yahoo Sports web series “Check the Tape” — which you can find at the top of this page — I walked you through one area where Lamar will need to be on point Sunday: the red zone.
I cover this more in the video, with film examples and commentary from Jackson, receiver Marquise Brown and coach John Harbaugh, so please check it out. The gist of it is that Jackson’s elusiveness and savvy in the red zone — in addition to the Ravens’ ability to create defined throws — makes Baltimore’s offense tough to stop down there.
“When we’ve won games, we’ve been efficient down there, and when we haven’t, we haven’t been efficient,” Harbaugh said.
Jackson boasts a stunning 46-0 touchdown to interception ratio down there the past few years, and it’s hard to imagine that coming to an end against a Tennessee defense that ranks a horrific 30th in pass defense DVOA.
Expect it to be tougher to score in the red zone this weekend, as Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel has proven his playoff chops as a defensive mind. But Baltimore consistently makes red-zone offense a priority in practice, thanks to offensive coordinator Greg Roman and senior assistant/running backs coach Craig Ver Steeg.
“We work on it every single day through training camp and the regular season – that’s part of it – because we know how important it is,” Harbaugh said. “Greg has done a really nice job of organizing it and scheming it. Craig Ver Steeg, who has that responsibility in terms of organizing the red zone and helping Greg scheme up the stuff, he’s done an excellent job with that. And it really comes back to, when you can run the ball well, and when you have a quarterback who can extend plays and has such good vision – like Lamar [Jackson] does – that makes you tough in the red zone.”
And don’t forget, Lamar saw all the hate he was getting after last year’s playoff loss to the Titans, and I’m sure he’s itching to prove everyone wrong. Earlier this summer, when I spoke to him about Michael Jordan and “The Last Dance,” Jackson reminded me that he shares the competitiveness gene with Jordan.
michael jordan and I took that personally pic.twitter.com/tD7pwkGDPp
— reactions (@reactjpg) May 28, 2020
“I don’t forget nothing,” Jackson said.
He’ll have a chance to prove it this weekend.
More from Yahoo Sports: