The youngest quarterback to ever start an NFL playoff game got destroyed, demoralized and discombobulated for three-and-a-half quarters, led a storming comeback attempt and then saw his season end on a game-sealing fumble.
"I feel like I played poorly," Jackson said. "There's a lot of things we could've did down that field that could've put us in a better situation. Just gotta move on and get ready for next year."
Jackson looked overwhelmed for the first 52 minutes in the loss to the 12-4 Chargers. In the first half, he completed just 2 of 8 passes for 17 yards and an interception for a 0.0 QB rating. Things got no better for Jackson after the break. On the first 10 Ravens possessions of the game, Jackson was 3-of-10 passing for 25 yards, gaining three total first downs (Baltimore's first first down of the second half came with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter). Before the final three possessions, the Chargers held Jackson to -2 total yards passing, thanks to five sacks.
"I wasn't playing my game today. I'm ticked off by that," Jackson said. "I didn't play my game at all. There's a lot of things I need to work on."
With the Chargers going up three scores, Jackson finally found footing, leading the Ravens back with two late touchdown drives to pull within six points. During the comeback bid, Jackson made several highlight throws, especially on the move, finding Michael Crabtree for two touchdowns. Baltimore got the ball back down six with a chance to complete the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in playoff history.
Jackson, who has struggled with fumbles throughout this season, however, was sacked and coughed up the ball to squash the chances.
The storming comeback made Jackson's numbers look much better. The rookie ended the game 14-of-29 passing for 194 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 78.8 passer rating. He also took seven sacks and fumbled three times, losing one.
The first three-and-a-half quarters, however, will overshadow the comeback attempt.
Jackson came into the game with the third-lowest passer rating (59.2) throwing outside the numbers -- only fellow rookies Josh Allen (53.3) and Josh Rosen (54.4) were lower. The first-year signal-caller continued struggling with those tosses early, throwing high and wide repeatedly. Jackson completed just one of four passes outside the numbers in the first half, per Next Gen Stats. He made plays late in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late.
After holding Jackson to a starter-low 39 yards rushing in Week 16, the Chargers again corralled the quarterback, holding the speed demon to 54 yards rushing. Jackson's best plays came on called passes that the rookie took for solid runs.
Despite fans in the stadium and a plethora of social media commentators calling for Joe Flacco to replace Jackson throughout the contest, John Harbaugh stuck with his rookie for the duration. At one point fans were loudly booing Jackson and called for the QB to be benched.
"I still love the fans. They're going to come for us ... No hard feelings," Jackson said. "They were looking for better in us. We didn't perform well. It happens sometimes."
Sunday's early struggles will lead to a bevy of questions about the viability of the Ravens' game plan with Jackson under center. Given that the Chargers were the only team to face the rookie twice, can Jackson and Baltimore adjust the offense enough game-to-game to be productive? The questions may prove to be hogwash, but they will be asked all offseason.
The late-game flashes show the high upside Jackson brings to the table.
The season ended on a disappointing day for Jackson but doesn't vaporize the spark and juice he brought to Baltimore. The rookie entered the NFL needing to work on his passing acumen. He now has an entire offseason to do just that. If Jackson can improve his play recognition, accuracy outside the numbers and mastery of the offense, he could make a huge leap in Year 2.