Lamar Jackson still remembers losses he took in youth football in south Florida.
“It really haunts me,” he said recently on “The Lounge” podcast. “I really hate losing.”
So how do you think Jackson is treating Sunday’s return to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium – the site of his only regular-season loss?
Jackson holds an 8-1 regular-season record since he took over as the Ravens’ starter midway through last year. Kansas City was the one that got away, and it was an especially frustrating defeat.
On Dec. 9, on a very cold day, Jackson went 13-of-24 for 147 yards as a passer with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran 14 times for 67 yards. For a rookie quarterback making just his second road start – in a hostile environment against a team like that – it was an impressive showing.
However, Jackson surely hasn’t forgotten the sour ending.
After Jackson lofted a perfect touchdown pass to put the Ravens on top with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the defense had Kansas City on the ropes. But a miracle 48-yard throw and catch from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-9 helped the Chiefs tie the game.
Jackson and the offense got the ball back with 53 seconds and a chance to win. That is until Jackson was sacked and stripped by linebacker Justin Houston. The Chiefs missed a field goal to win, sending the game into overtime, and Jackson had new life.
The Chiefs kicked a field goal on the first possession in overtime, so the Ravens had to either match it or score a touchdown. Jackson drove them to Kansas City’s 45-yard line, but a holding penalty set them back and, forced to throw, Jackson was sacked again. Only this time, he was injured on the play when his ankle got twisted.
Robert Griffin III finished out the final two plays and the game, including a fourth-and-22 heave that fell incomplete. The final score was Kansas City 27, Ravens 24. Jackson wasn’t even on the field when he took his first NFL loss.
That loss has stuck with Jackson, just like the one in the playoffs last year.
Jackson had an offseason full of doubters after the Ravens’ wild-card playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium. Jackson said he’s thought about that loss “every day” since, and after beating the Cardinals on Sunday, he referenced it.
“I lost a playoff game here the last time I played on this field, so I’m ticked off still,” Jackson said. “I don’t plan on losing. You don’t get a game to lose. You try to win.”
Jackson’s competitiveness dates back to his childhood. He recalls having “anger issues” when losing during video games and it was even worse when he lost on the football field.
“It used to be real rough. I used to throw fits – temper tantrums – after games,” Jackson said. “I would throw my helmet off and be like, ‘We just lost! We were supposed to beat this team!’ I would be furious after games.”
Would his mom scold him for losing his cool?
“No! She’s mad too that we lost,” Jackson said. “It’s a family thing.”
That part of Jackson hasn’t worn off with age. Maybe with video games, but not with football.
Jackson was even miffed after the Ravens’ win over Arizona. He had just set another record, becoming the first quarterback ever to throw for at least 250 yards and rush for at least 120 yards in a game, but he said he played just “alright” and “could have been better.”
“He doesn’t really dwell on the positives too much,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “He dwells on the areas of improvement. And we appreciate that.”
Harbaugh noticed his quarterback’s mood as he waited for his turn at the postgame press conference on Sunday. When asked about Jackson’s blazing speed, Harbaugh focused on a different attribute.
During the third quarter, after Jackson ran 19 yards on third-and-20 to put Baltimore on the cusp of the end zone, the Ravens were going to go for it on fourth-and-1. However, they didn’t get the play in and lined up fast enough and took a delay of game penalty that forced them to kick a short field goal.
Jackson ripped his helmet off and trudged to the sideline, livid – not at anyone else – but himself for not getting his teammates lined up quick enough.
“I would say, more than anything, [it’s] his competitiveness,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a super competitive person. He wants to win. And he was mad in the third quarter. I just love that about him.”
In the 10 games Jackson has started in the NFL, the Ravens have lost just twice. That’s an extremely good mark for such a young quarterback, but it won’t comfort Jackson one bit if he doesn’t get a win Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Asked last week what he’s like after a football loss these days, Jackson had to bite his tongue.
“You almost got me to curse,” Jackson said. “I’m ticked off. I’m watching it. I’m going to watch the plays for what I did wrong, try not to make it happen again. But I’m not planning on losing – at all.”