The Ravens were not fully prepared to face the Tennessee Titans in this past season’s divisional playoff game, according to quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“They caught us by surprise. That’s all it was,” Jackson said on Complex’s “Load Management” podcast. “You can’t underestimate no team, no opponent, and that’s what we did.”
Those comments are surprising because Jackson and his teammates were peppered with questions about being fully prepared in the days leading up to that playoff game.
The prior season, the Ravens rolled past the Chargers 22-10 in Week 16 before losing to that same team two weeks later in the wild card round of the playoffs. The Ravens were held scoreless in the first half en route to the 23-17 setback.
Jackson was repeatedly asked what he learned from that game to avoid another upset at home. He said the Ravens needed to start faster and avoid mistakes.
In their first possession against the Titans, Jackson threw a high pass to Mark Andrews that was intercepted by safety Kevin Byard and the Ravens never fully recovered in the 28-12 loss. While Jackson struggled to make adjustments in the playoff loss to the Chargers, he racked up 508 yards of total offense against Tennessee.
He was not the reason the Ravens lost that game.
Jackson completed 31 of 59 pass attempts for 365 yards with the two interceptions. He also ran for 143 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
“I had a lot of mistakes on my behalf,” said Jackson. “Three turnovers — that shouldn’t happen. But they came out to play.”
There were two key reasons for the Ravens’ disappointing performance that day.
1. The Ravens had set the NFL single-season rushing record in 2019 with 3,296 yards. They seemed to panic after falling behind early against the Titans and ran the ball just 29 times for 129 yards.
2. The Ravens had no answer for Titans running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 195 yards on 30 carries. Every time the Ravens needed a key stop, Henry found a seam and carried the momentum.
As a result, the coaching staff had to shoulder much of the blame because of the lack of adjustments. The players looked shell-shocked most of the game.
The Ravens did make several upgrades this offseason to end the past two years of one-and-done postseason performances.
Jackson has worked hard this offseason with his private quarterback coach Joshua Harris to improve his passing efficiency and ability to read a defense. GM Eric DeCosta added another stout running back in this year’s NFL draft with J.K. Dobbins from Ohio State to boost an already explosive running attack.
The Ravens added more talent to the defensive line by acquiring Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars and signing Derek Wolfe as a free agent from the Denver Broncos. In addition, the Ravens added a pair of stout defensive tackles in the 2020 NFL Draft — Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington — to provide depth.
The Ravens are expected to make a deep run in the postseason this year with one of the NFL’s deepest rosters. Coach John Harbaugh knows his team will be judged on how well they compete in the playoffs.
“We had a great season, but we had a disappointing end,” Harbaugh said earlier this offseason. “We weren’t our best in that playoff game, and that was disappointing. That hurts a little bit, to say the least.”