Lamar Jackson is one of just eight quarterbacks since 1970 to reach the playoffs each of his first three years in the NFL.
But after Saturday night's 17-3 loss in Buffalo, the man who promised Baltimore a Super Bowl has fallen short for the third straight year and fallen to 1-3 in the postseason.
Of course, the Ravens' playoff losses should not fall on Jackson's shoulders alone. There were many factors that led to the divisional playoff defeat. But Jackson and the Ravens know the routine. Quarterbacks often bear that weight, and Jackson holds the keys to Baltimore's fortunes.
His response to another gut punch will be critical to getting over the hump. Not surprisingly, wide receiver Willie Snead IV said Jackson was "frustrated" after the loss.
"He said he's fine from the concussion, but he's frustrated that we were that close, and we didn't get to finish drives," Snead said. "He's just the ultimate competitor. He doesn't like to lose, and he knows that he can get better.
Jackson didn't speak to the media after Saturday night's 17-3 loss in Buffalo because he was dealing with the concussion that knocked him out of the game on the final play of the third quarter.
Jackson had a difficult night even before the injury. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 162 yards and often looked uncomfortable in the pocket trying to find an open receiver. He scrambled and made plays at times after extending plays, but it was a struggle for much of the night.
Jackson found little room to run against the Bills' Cover-4 defense that crowded the line of scrimmage. He had nine carries for just 34 yards.
When he dropped back to pass, Jackson often faced a heavy blitz from the Bills defense, forcing him to make quick decisions against Buffalo's zone defense.
"He sees the plays afterwards; he knows that he has to be better at reading through zones and stuff like that," Snead said.
Jackson and the Ravens offense got into a rhythm on their first drive of the second half. He completed five straight passes for 39 yards and had a 15-yard run to move the chains on a third-and-13. The Ravens were in the red zone and in position to tie the game.
Jackson could have had a touchdown, but a pair of missed blocks left his pass intended to Marquise Brown in the end zone short. The Ravens had Brown and tight end Mark Andrews open, and probably would have hit one for a touchdown had it not been for the pressure.
On the next play, Jackson was intercepted by Bills cornerback Taron Johnson in the end zone. His 101-yard return for a touchdown completely changed the game, putting the Bills up by two touchdowns. Jackson seemingly never saw him jump underneath Andrews' route.
Jackson got just two more snaps before he was knocked out of the game as he tried to make the best of a botched snap that sailed over his head and nearly into the Ravens' end zone.
Critics always say Jackson can't lead a comeback win. This time, he didn't even get a chance.
Snead was asked how the loss will affect how Jackson approaches the offseason.
"I think he'll look back at the whole season – not just this game, the whole season – and he'll make those adjustments that he needs to do to be an elite quarterback – an even more elite quarterback," Snead said. "He is an elite runner, an elite passer, but there are steps he can take, better strides that he can take, and he knows that."
Jackson became the first quarterback ever to run for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons, doing so in back-to-back years. But how long can he keep doing that? As Snead said, Jackson's continued development as a passer will in large part determine whether he and the Ravens win the ultimate prize that is clearly within reach.
"That's the competitor in him to want to get better each and every offseason, to fix the little things that his game needs improvement on and continue to get better as a passer," Snead said. "I think if he knuckles down on that part of his game and really reaches his full potential in that area, then the sky is the limit for Lamar. It's just a matter of time. So, it's really on him. I think this game is going to be a wake-up call for him, hopefully this offseason. So, we'll see what he does next year."
Jackson just turned 24 years old. He's still very early in his NFL career. But every year that goes by is another lost opportunity with Jackson in his prime.
The Ravens were stung by last year's playoff loss to the Titans, and this year they came back and beat Tennessee in the wild-card round as Jackson got his first postseason win. They took another step forward. Now Jackson needs to take another to help Baltimore do the same.
"He's going to be good," Snead said. "I just know that he's going to get better from this, like he always does; proving people wrong and just trying to take that next step in his journey."