Lamar Jackson now has the second-highest completion percentage in the NFL. He's throwing the ball better than he ever has in his career. But one pass has been a thorn in his side.
Jackson has struggled to connect on the deep ball this season. He's hit some, but it hasn't been as consistent as Jackson would like, and those missed big-play opportunities are holding back the Ravens' offense from reaching its full potential.
Jackson overthrew Zay Flowers on one in Sunday's 33-31 loss to the Browns. Flowers had a couple steps on the defender and a touchdown would have put the Ravens up 24-6. Instead, Baltimore ended up getting a field goal blocked.
"I mean it's right there. I'm pissed off about it to be honest with you," Jackson said. "I watched the game, and it's like it might be a difference in the game if we connect with that one.
"Can't dwell on it. Hopefully this Thursday we catch them when we want them, we have success with the deep ball, we connect and have chemistry there. I believe it's there [because] in practice we do it all the time. Those guys catch the ball down the field 40 yards, 50 yards down the field. We need to transition that over to the games, that's all."
Since Week 6 (after the Pittsburgh game win numerous drops), Jackson has gone 3-of-13 on throws of 20 or more air yards for 89 yards and one interception. His completion percentage is 12.7% below expectation, per Next Gen Stats.
"We've just got to make it happen," Flowers said. "You miss sometimes. You're not going to connect all the time. We've just got to keep building our connection and get it down."
Jackson also targeted Rashod Bateman on a deep shot near the end of the first half, but his throw was way too short and easily intercepted.
"It's a work in progress for sure," Bateman said. "That's what practice is for. We'll connect when it's time to connect. Lamar holding himself to a high standard, I do as well. We'll get it, but in due time."
John Harbaugh Wants Lamar in Clutch Situations
The pick-six in Sunday's loss to the Browns changed the game, and interceptions have been one part of the Ravens' struggles in late-game situations in recent years.
In the fourth quarter this season, the Ravens have averaged just 68 yards and Jackson's adjusted quarterback rating is 31.8 – both ranked No. 29 in the NFL, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Because the Ravens have led so much this season, Jackson hasn't had many comeback opportunities. But there have been instances where Baltimore has had the chance to close the game out on offense and not done so, including Sunday against the Browns.
Head Coach John Harbaugh came to his quarterback's defense Tuesday when asked about what he can improve upon in the fourth quarter.
"Lamar competes. He fights. He plays hard," Harbaugh said. "You're going against the best defenses in football [and] the schemes in crazy situations.
"I just wouldn't rather have any other quarterback in the league than Lamar Jackson in a tough situation. We all try to do our best in every situation. We all try to build and improve through all these experiences that we have, and he's no different. I just love his competitiveness. I'm a Lamar Jackson guy. That's my guy. I believe in him, and I'll take him in every fourth-quarter situation from here until I'm done coaching – I'll tell you that. I'm proud of him, and we'll roll with Lamar Jackson."
Ravens Prepare for Healthier Joe Burrow
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was dealing with a calf injury that limited his mobility when the Ravens defeated Cincinnati in Week 2. Two months later, Burrow is healthy again and the Ravens are preparing for his ability to extend plays in key situations, part of what makes him an elite player.
Inside linebacker Patrick Queen won a national championship with Burrow at LSU and is aware of his ability to create positive plays while under duress.
"Their offense goes as (Burrow) goes," Queen said. "When he was hurt, they weren't doing as good and now that he's back, he can move around and make every throw outside the pocket and inside the pocket. You can definitely tell he's back to him, so that's a great test for us."
All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who had a season-high 21 tackles in Week 10, is looking forward to the challenge.
"The last couple of games he's been able to move around a bit more," Smith said. "We've seen him healthy, we've seen him not healthy. It don't really matter. They're going to come ready, so we're going to come. It'll be whoever's the best that night. I like us."
John Harbaugh 'Proud' of Brother's Handling of Michigan Situation
With Michigan's football program facing a challenging situation, Harbaugh has his brother's back.
Michigan is undefeated and vying for a national championship, but Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended for three games on Nov. 9 after the Big Ten deemed Michigan was in violation of the conference's sportsmanship policy for sign stealing.
Michigan was outraged by that decision, arguing that the investigation into the matter has not been completed. Harbaugh and the university filed a complaint against the Big Ten and commissioner Tony Petitti, asking the court for a temporary order that would get Harbaugh back on the field, with a hearing scheduled for Friday.
While remaining focused on his team's Thursday night game against the Bengals, John Harbaugh made it clear that he's also been supporting his brother.
"I talk to him quite a bit. I have a lot of opinions on it, obviously, I'm his brother," Harbaugh said. "I'm proud as heck of him. I'm really impressed with the way he's handled himself through all this. It's been a long run. About everything that could be done – his phones, his computers, and all that stuff has been looked at and he's come through this thing with flying colors. I don't know what they're trying to get, but they don't have anything of substance.
"I think it's a real compliment to our family and to him. His kids can see this. You get in this kind of situation, you come under fire for whatever reasons, and you come out in a really good place doing the right thing all the time. He's a great man, he's a great coach, players love him, his coaches love him. He stands tall through all this."
Harbaugh said he wasn't sure if he would attend when Michigan visits Maryland on Saturday.
"Let's get through Thursday night and see where we're at, but I'll definitely be pulling for him and the whole team on Saturday, for sure," he said.