Pass defense still undermines Ravens QB Lamar Jackson’s stellar play

Owens Mills, Maryland — For three-quarters of the time, Baltimore looked like a Super Bowl contender. Lamar Jackson was a sensation, and the Ravens were instrumental in passing, running and special teams.

And then their big weakness — pass defense — ruined all that good work.

Baltimore finished last in the passing game a season ago, and the Ravens clearly have a long way to go after trying to bolster the secondary with offseason additions. Some of that was because the defensive backcourt wasn’t fully healthy, but in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 42-38 loss to Miami, they allowed long touchdowns that weren’t good for a team that protected a comfortable lead. should happen.

“Basically, they’re just bragging about coverage,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

Jackson threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns, and also had a long TD run. Devin Duvernay drove back for a 103-yard touchdown. Baltimore led 35-14 in the fourth quarter before Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins fought back hard. Tagovailoa finished the game with six TD passes, including the winner with 14 seconds left.

Miami had a 68-yard victory in six games, and the Ravens (1-1) couldn’t resist much, but it was two touchdown passes before the fourth quarter — 48 and 60 to the Tyreek Hill – This really stands out. Baltimore’s defense was badly beaten both times.

What job: Even after the Ravens traded Marquise Brown in the offseason, Jackson seemed to have plenty of good targets. Rashad Bateman caught a 55-yard touchdown pass in the opener against the New York Jets and scored on a 75-yard catch run against Miami that looked like a major threat.

What do I have to do: The Ravens added safety Marcus Williams in the offseason, and he’s already had three interceptions in two games. But it was a mess for middle school, and Harbaugh was candid about it.

“We’ll look at the way we prepare, how we walk, how we teach, how we repeat in practice, things like that,” Harbaugh said. “Those are things that shouldn’t have happened. They’re below the line. I didn’t expect those things to happen in this game, but I also understand we have some youngsters out there.”

The Ravens are dealing with middle school health issues. Marlon Humphrey played but has been nursing a groin injury, while Marcus Peters returned in his first game after missing the entire season last season with a knee injury. Safety Kyle Hamilton was a first-round pick, but he’s still early in his rookie season.

There’s certainly potential for improvement, but that bodes badly for a team that’s faced Joe Burrow twice this season — with Josh Allen and Tom Brady also on the schedule.

stockpile: Given that Jackson is a 25-year-old star with MVP honors, it’s hard for Jackson’s stock to rise much, but the game felt like a step forward for him. He picked up a defense that seemed to have settled him 10 months ago, and at one point it looked like he might end the game with a perfect pass score.

Of course, his 79-yard touchdown was a highlight.

Jackson’s overall performance over the weekend made it harder to say the team could stop the Ravens by forcing a pass.

Inventory reduction: While the secondary received most of the criticism, passing fever wasn’t a big factor either. Tagovailoa is elusive at times and does a great job of releasing the ball quickly. Linebacker Odafe Oweh has a Pro Football Focus defensive rating of under 50 in each of the first two games of the season. It happened to him only once last season as a rookie.

“Have to play better, like all of us,” Harbaugh said. “We have to coach better, we have to play better, you have to make a name for yourself out there.”

harm: Harbaugh says LB Steven Means tore his Achilles tendon. He was sent off in the first half of Sunday’s game. Baltimore put both Means and rookie LB Josh Ross on the injured bench.

key number: 2.6 — That’s the average of Baltimore’s two-game scoring average for players other than Jackson. JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards are still out due to knee injuries. Justice Hill showed some potential, but the Ravens struggled Sunday in several key short-yard situations and may have relied too heavily on Jackson for the game.

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