A pair of missed first-half touchdowns in the Ravens’ 23-16 loss to the rival Steelers Sunday afternoon could haunt quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco had Lamar Jackson wide open for a touchdown that would have given the Ravens an early lead, but he didn’t see him. Flacco then had Michael Crabtree for a touchdown near the end of the first half, but threw wide.
The Steelers were 2-for-2 in the red zone in the first half and the Ravens were 0-for-2. In the end, that was the difference.
“I thought we really were going to need three touchdowns to win, or two touchdowns and a field goal in the second half,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We weren’t scoring touchdowns, and that really hurt us.”
The missed opportunity to Jackson may have been the most blatant because everybody in M&T Bank Stadium and watching on TV probably saw the backup quarterback waving his arms hoping for Flacco to see him.
Jackson motioned across the formation and nobody from the Steelers followed, indicating that they were in man coverage. Nobody picked up Jackson in the right flat. Instead, in the heat of the play, Flacco threw to wide receiver John Brown over the middle, to whom the Steelers dedicated double coverage.
Flacco confirmed that he did not see Jackson open.
“If you remember, we were kind of rushing around there,” Flacco said. “It didn’t get off perfect, and he’s the last guy out of probably five [options] out there anyways.
“It’s one of those where maybe you wish you had extended the play and ended up seeing it late.”
What Flacco is saying is that Jackson is his last read on the play and he just didn’t get to it. Jackson said that when they practiced the play, he had never been that wide open.
“It wasn’t designed for me,” Jackson said. “Can’t blame that on him. He was going through his reads. I was a late option. Last resort.”
Flacco’s second touchdown miss was on a first-and-10 from Pittsburgh’s 12-yard line. Crabtree shook his defender and had the sideline, but Flacco threw it too wide, making what should have been a relatively easy touchdown much harder. Crabtree dove, but couldn’t hang onto the ball. Flacco said the ball wasn’t tipped at the line of scrimmage.
“It just felt like I had to get rid of that ball,” Flacco said. “I didn’t let him get out of his break and tried kind of floating it out there … and I didn’t hit him.”
After throwing for 363 yards in Pittsburgh in Week 4, Flacco has not topped 300 yards in five games since. He was 23-of-37 for 209 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions in Sunday’s rematch.
He was definitely affected by a banged-up offensive line that was without both of its starting offensive tackles, Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back). The Steelers had six quarterback hits and two sacks, and the pressure didn’t enable the Ravens to take many deep shots. Brown, who had a big game in Week 4, had three catches for 17 yards.
“When we did get into the seven-step, or even the five-step stuff, Joe was under duress,” Harbaugh said. “We were trying to get the ball out quick and run the ball in various formations. Obviously, a lot of the Lamar stuff in the beginning.”
After the game, Harbaugh said he wants the Ravens to use Jackson more as Baltimore will head into its bye looking to jump start its offense.
Check out the best shots from Sunday's Week 9 game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.