Lamar Jackson: 'I need to win a playoff game before anything'

Todd Karpovich

After a record-breaking season that earned him MVP honors, Lamar Jackson has adjusted his focus to one statistic: 0-2.

That's his record in the postseason over his young career. 

Jackson has heard the criticism that comes with that playoff disappoint — a drought he plans the end this season. 

"I need to win a playoff game before anything because I'm tired of that already," he said. "Once I get tired of something, I have to make it happen. So, that's my goal right now; focus on being a better player all around. Not just a [better] player, but teammate as well."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has defended his young quarterback's postseason performance. In fact, Harbaugh contends Jackson is in pretty good company when it comes to the playoffs. 

“The Manning brothers combined to, they had five losses in their first five playoff games before they won one,” Harbaugh said. “[Joe] Montana, [Steve] Young and [Brett] Favre didn’t start a playoff game until their third season, [Drew] Brees and [Troy] Aikman, until their fourth season, and [Aaron] Rodgers until his fifth season.

“Interesting. So, everybody is different, right? But I’m really confident in Lamar and his understanding the things he needs to do to get better, and that he’s going to work really hard to keep building himself up as a player.”

Jackson took over the starting job as a rookie in 2018 and led the Ravens to wins in six of their final seven games to end a three-year playoff drought.

However, Jackson struggled in a 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild-card round. He completed 14 of 29 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception (78.8 quarterback rating). Jackson was also held to 54 yards on nine carries.

The Chargers utilized extra defensive backs to chase down Jackson when he scrambled out of the pocket and their zone defense forced him to throw outside the hash marks — an area where he struggled that season. 

Los Angeles' gameplan was expected to be a blueprint to stop the Ravens. 

However, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman made his own adjustments entering the 2019 season and the team was virtually unstoppable over 16 games. 

Baltimore finished with the league’s best record (14-2), No. 1 scoring offense (33.2 ppg) and broke the NFL’s single-season rushing record (3,296 yards). Jackson was unanimously named the league MVP after throwing for 3,127 yards with an NFL-high 36 touchdowns and 1,206 yards rushing — the most by a quarterback in NFL single-season history.

The season, however, ended with a thud when the Titans outclassed the Ravens 28-12 in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Jackson had three turnovers — two interceptions and a lost fumble — and was sacked four times. The Titans contained Jackson again with a zone defense, never allowing him to take over the game.

Jackson was 31 of 59 for 365 yards with the two interceptions. He also ran for 143 yards and touchdown on 20 carries. However, most of those yards came late in the second half when Tennessee was already cruising to the victory. 

Jackson produced 508 yards offense. Baltimore had 530 yards. Jackson then made headlines this offseason last month when he said the Ravens might have taken the Titans too lightly. 

"It's any given Sunday," Jackson told Nick Shook of NFL.com. "You can't underestimate no team, no opponent and that's what we did. ... Don't underestimate your opponents. They caught us by surprise. That's all it was."

Harbaugh downplayed those comments: "I don't think we took them lightly personally. I just think we didn't play well." 

Still, Jackson will carry around some stigma until he wins a playoff game. In the end, the only accolade he cares about is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

"In the NFL, the Super Bowl is the biggest thing, the biggest accomplishment to me, and that's what I want," he said. "I want to be able to lift my teammates to being the best in the world at that time. So, that's what I'm going to do."

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