It was shaping up to be a storybook ending. The Baltimore Ravens, led by the youngest quarterback in the history of the NFL to start a playoff game, was surmounting a comeback with only minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Rewind about 50 minutes, however, and the outlook was much different.
After going 6-1 as a starter and leading his team to the playoffs for the first time in four years, Jackson entered the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers three-for-nine for 25 passing yards and 40 rushing yards on seven attempts.
Chants for Joe Flacco's return to the field began in M&T Bank Stadium while Jackson's future with the Ravens became a hot topic on Twitter. Cornerback Jimmy Smith was taken back by the negativity.
"They're booing the guy that got us here," Smith said after the loss. "Are you a fairweather fan that quickly? They turned their backs on him, and that got under my skin a little bit. But for the record I want to say our fans are a lot better than that. There's a few of them in there that, you know, fair weather. But overall our fans are great."
It was an interesting turn of events for a guy that reignited a fire in the city of Baltimore.
After the game, Jackson's head coach and teammates made their faith in the 2018 first-round pick crystal clear.
"I mean, Lamar [Jackson] is our quarterback going forward — no question about that," John Harbaugh said postgame.
"He's the future. He is the future," safety Eric Weddle added. "As you guys can tell, he's devastated right now, and that's what's going to drive him in the offseason. And, he'll come back 10 times better than he was this year. For what he did, and to the belief that he gave not only our team, but our city, this organization, is pretty special."
In seven starts in the regular season, Jackson threw for 2,465 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 695 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The speed he presented kept defenses on their toes, but his room for improvement throwing the ball and his lack of ball control remained a mark on his reputation.
That problem was apparent in Sunday's loss and will remain a question throughout the offseason. Jackson knows he has room for improvement, but within the Ravens organization there's no doubt what he brings to Baltimore.
"I am proud of him," cornerback Brandon Carr said after the loss. "Once he finally took over the team, his composure, his demeanor says a lot about him. The game was not too big for him. Once he got on the field you could see his talent. I think his future is bright. That's great for us as a team. Once he gets this offseason, he'll take the next leap. Once he gets his eyes set, his mechanics will improve, and let's see what we got with Lamar."
And despite the fans' restlessness throughout Sunday's game, the only rookie quarterback to make a postseason appearance knows his teammates, and the fans of Baltimore, deserve better.
"We still love the fans," Jackson said. "They're going to come fill up seats for us. It was a hard finish. They were looking for better in us. We didn't perform well. It happens sometimes."
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