BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was so infuriated by throwing an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter that he ripped off his helmet with both hands and slammed it to the ground while walking to the sideline.
For the presumptive NFL Most Valuable Player, another season filled with promise ended with a thud in the postseason.
Jackson and the AFC’s top-seeded Ravens struggled to move the ball and committed three turnovers in a 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. The loss drops Jackson to 2-4 in the postseason.
“I’m not frustrated at all,” Jackson said. “I’m angry about losing. We are a game away from the Super Bowl. We’ve been waiting all this time, all these moments for opportunity like this and we fell short. But I feel like our team, we going to build this offseason, going to get right, get better grind and try to be in this position again — but on the other side of victory.”
Jackson had looked nearly unstoppable entering the first home AFC Championship Game in the Ravens’ 28-year existence. In winning his past seven starts (including last week’s divisional victory), Jackson had Baltimore averaging 33.9 points per game.
Then, in Jackson’s first conference championship game appearance, he did not resemble the game’s top player and the Ravens tied a season low in points scored. Baltimore became the first team in 20 years to lose a conference championship game when holding the opponent to 17 points or less.
“We’re mad,” Jackson said. “Offense, we didn’t put nothing on the board. We scored once. That’s not like us. We drove the ball down the field. That’s cool. But we got to put points on the board. But I feel like my team just angry, not frustrated, we just angry. We know how hard we worked to get here.”
Jackson is the betting favorite to win his second NFL MVP after producing career highs with 3,678 yards passing and a 67.2% completion rate. The Ravens were considered the most dominant team in the NFL this season by going 6-0 against teams that entered the week at least three games over .500 and beating them by an average of 26.2 points.
But, on Sunday, Jackson reverted back to his mistakes in previous postseasons. In his four playoff losses, he has now averaged 10.5 points, totaling four touchdowns and eight turnovers.
“There’s certain moments that define you, and this is just one that’ll be in his career,” Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “The greats have all been through tough times and I don’t think this is going to stop him from wanting to get to his ultimate goal. If anything, he’s going to work even harder.”
Beckham added, “He wants it bad. I had never seen somebody so locked in and just in the flow and in that era, I just felt like it was his time. And like I say, sometimes things happen in life and it doesn’t go the way that we planned and it’s just about what do you do from here.”
Jackson struggled to extend drives. On third downs, he was 1-of-6 for 7 yards with two sacks. Jackson also had problems with the Chiefs’ pass rush; he completed a season-low 41% of his passes against the blitz.
“I told him to stand up tall,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s had a great season, his performance today was all heart. He fought, he went out there and gave everything he had. So I don’t think that’s anything that I’d be disappointed in.”
Jackson has been fixated on leading the Ravens to a championship for years. When he was drafted by Baltimore in 2018, he said, “They’re going to get a Super Bowl out of me. Believe that.”
But, despite leading Baltimore to the playoffs in four seasons, including two No. 1 seeds, Jackson has not been able to advance the Ravens to a Super Bowl.
“Honestly, what hurts me the most is that I wanted to get him the recognition that he deserves,” Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen said. “It’s a team sport, but that guy was the main guy I was playing for, honestly. This was his opportunity to be able to write some of that stuff off and move on to the next thing.
“That’s why it hurts, because you want to see people like that, teammates that you love and care about, get what they’re supposed to get, and that didn’t happen today.”