Another fourth quarter became a nightmare for the Ravens defense.
The Jaguars erupted for 18 fourth-quarter points against Baltimore on Sunday, sending the Ravens (7-4) to a heartbreaking 28-27 defeat that snapped a four-game winning streak. Losing fourth-quarter leads has been the biggest shortcoming of the Ravens' 2022 season. They have surrendered fourth-quarter leads in all four of their losses, and this latest defeat came against a Jacksonville team (4-7) that had lost six of its last seven games.
After acquiring Roquan Smith and yielding just one touchdown in their two previous games, the Ravens defense was brimming with confidence. But this latest fourth-quarter meltdown was another wakeup call that left them frustrated.
"We didn't finish," said outside linebacker Justin Houston. "We got lackadaisical out there, lack of communication. The little things, I think that's what you've got to do. You've got do it for four quarters, not three. We didn't."
The drive that broke Baltimore's back came on Jacksonville's final drive, after Lamar Jackson hit Josh Oliver for a 12-yard touchdown pass, followed by two-point conversion pass from Jackson to Mark Andrews. That put the Ravens ahead, 27-20, with 2:02 left, and they would have left Jacksonville with an emotional victory if they could have kept the Jaguars from driving 75 yards on their final possession.
But the Ravens couldn't. Second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence started picking the Ravens apart, completion by completion, and it didn't stop. He completed passes of 16 yards and 17 yards to Christian Kirk, and a 29-yarder to Zay Jones that gave the Jaguars a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line with 36 seconds to play. It wasn't like Lawrence was picking on one defender. He was finding gaps in pass coverage all over the field, picking the defense apart before Baltimore's pass rush was able to get to him.
"They completed some big passes on us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Hats off to them."
After driving to first-and goal at the 10 with 36 seconds left to play, Lawrence lofted a pass to Marvin Jones in the end zone near the sideline that forced him to make a leaping catch. Jones landed with one foot in bounds, but it appeared his backside and second foot may have landed out of bounds. After a replay, the officials ruled it a touchdown.
Harbaugh was asked whether he thought Jones had made the catch inbounds.
"They reviewed it," Harbaugh said. "I'm not sure what they said. Nobody explained it to me."
Still trailing 27-26, the Jaguars decided to go for two points instead of kicking a game-tying extra point. They had momentum and the Ravens were not surprised by that decision, but they couldn't keep the Jaguars from converting. Lawrence went to Zay Jones again, and he beat Brandon Stephens to the corner of the end zone to catch the game-winning two-point conversion with 14 seconds to play.
"That's a play I have to make." Stephens said.
"It stings," said veteran defensive end Calais Campbell, who played in Jacksonville for three years and saw his return to Jacksonville spoiled. "As a defense we expect to win that every time. We didn't get it done. We knew they were talented and had a lot of playmakers. That coach (Doug Pederson) is a winning coach, you see it all the time on film, he's aggressive, they go for it on fourth down. We need to find a way to make that play."
The Ravens managed to get Justin Tucker in position to potentially save them, as he did last season in Detroit when he kicked a record-setting 66-yard field goal to beat the Lions. But this time, his 67-yard field goal fell short, leaving the Ravens with another difficult loss to digest.
Losing three games earlier this season in heartbreaking fashion didn't break the Ravens, and Campbell said this defeat wouldn't throw them into a tailspin either.
"We're competitors," Campbell said. "Everybody in that locker room is a competitor. Our heads are going to be high. We're going to watch the tape and make corrections. We know who we are."
However, Houston hoped he didn't have to explain anymore late-game defenses lapses from this point on. This defeat dropped Baltimore into a tie with the Bengals (7-4) in the AFC North with six games to play. The Ravens have already let more games slip away than they planned. They know it's a habit they need to break.
"We're still learning, we're still figuring things out," Houston said. "They had a long time to prepare for us, two weeks. We knew they we were going to attack us.
"This should give us motivation to keep moving forward. We get in the dance, we're going to shake something."