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Don't Blame Lamar Jackson For Ravens' Shocking Defeat

Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson didn't have his best game last night. | Will Newton/Getty Images

For the second week in a row, the Tennessee Titans went on the road and came out with an upset playoff win. Yet their success will not be the prevailing media narrative of the upcoming week. Instead, as with the New England Patriots the week before, the spotlight will be on the defeated Baltimore Ravens, and in particular, the performance of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Not without reason, admittedly. When you carry a 19-4 regular season record and an 0-2 postseason record, people are bound to ask questions of your performance.

Let's not dance around this: This wasn't his best night. Jackson's two interceptions marked his first multi-INT game since October against Pittsburgh, a game the Ravens still won. His passer rating dipped to 63.2, the second-lowest since he took over the Ravens' starting role. And of course, we can't ignore Jackson's two failures to convert on fourth down with his legs, something truly jarring to anyone who had witnessed his feats of magic during the regular season.

But as anyone who watched the 2011 Packers can tell you, it takes more than an elite-level quarterback to take a team to the Super Bowl. On paper, the Ravens seemed to have all the pieces in places, but against the Titans, those pieces - possibly rusty from a week of rest - fell completely apart.

But let's get this out of the way. Lamar Jackson is probably the last person in all of Maryland that you can blame for the Ravens' loss.

After all, he was the better quarterback on the field in terms of numbers (unless you count Derrick Henry as a quarterback, in which case, go right ahead), if only by default. That's only because - as in their win over New England - the Titans did not need Ryan Tannehill to make things happen with his arm. Conversely, the Ravens played from behind for virtually the whole game, requiring Jackson to throw and throw often.

During all of this, the offensive line tasked with protecting Jackson did no such thing. A unit which was once the envy of the league allowed four sacks, including one which led to a fumble recovered by Tennessee that was parlayed into the game-clinching touchdown late in the third quarter.

Jackson's receivers were little help, either. The tipping point arguably came on the Ravens' opening drive when a pass deflected off the hands of his favorite target, tight end Mark Andrews, into the arms of Titans safety Kevin Byard for interception #1. Things never improved for the receiving corps from there, as key third-down passes were dropped and possessions ended in field goals instead of touchdowns.

The situation would not have been so dire had the Ravens defense - also one of the league's top units throughout the year - succeeded in containing Derrick Henry, the one man they had to have prepared to contain throughout the week. Whatever preparation they conducted was for naught, as Henry reduced the Ravens' defensive line to shreds in gaining 195 yards and added insult to injury by throwing for just as many touchdowns as Jackson managed.

Even so, while this may not have been Jackson's best game of the year, he played his heart out in a losing cause. He didn't let the Ravens down; they let him down.