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Late for Work: Lamar Jackson 'Banishes' Negative Playoff Narrative

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson "Banishes" Negative Playoff Narrative

Mentions of 2019 and a playoff record of 1-3 be gone. Talk of "rest vs. rust" are no more as the Ravens are hosting the AFC Championship Game.

A big reason why is Lamar Jackson hanging four touchdowns and 252 combined yards against the Houston Texans' savvy defense in a sound 34-10 defeat. Pundits have chimed in on how Jackson has exorcised the narratives, as he's done his entire career.’s Bobby Kownack: "Baltimore's MVP front-runner was electric in the Ravens' 34-10 Divisional Round win over the Houston Texans, scoring four combined touchdowns with 152 yards through the air and 100 on the ground to banish the narrative of his playoff failures. … It was a redemptive performance by Jackson to silence any remaining critics."

NBC Sports’ Peter King: "The story angle out of this game, clearly, was Jackson playing his best playoff game after four mostly lousy ones. Fair, certainly; Jackson was football's Mookie Betts here, a five-tool player you might hold down for a few series but eventually he's going to kill you with his arm and legs, and he doesn't care which extremities he uses."

Andscape’s William C. Rhoden: "Forget the narratives. Jackson has secretly been writing a script to his own triumphant movie. We saw a preview Saturday. Jackson scored two touchdowns, threw for two more and ran for a team-high 100 yards as the Ravens defeated Houston 34-10 to advance to the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 28."

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Hurting the Texans with his legs as much as his arm, Jackson totaled four touchdowns and 100 yards rushing for the Ravens' first divisional round win since their 2012 Super Bowl campaign. Jackson recorded his third 100-yard rushing game in the postseason, surpassing Colin Kaepernick for the most by a quarterback in NFL history. Jackson also is the fourth player to record 100 yards rushing and two touchdown passes in a playoff game in NFL history and the first since Kaepernick in 2012. In the process, Jackson shattered the narrative that he couldn't win in the postseason after just one playoff victory in his first five seasons."

The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker: "He wasn't terrible in the first half — 7-for-11 with a touchdown against all that pressure, a team-high 50 rushing yards. But merely decent is not a standard Jackson has accepted this season. He summoned something far greater after halftime, throwing decisively, manipulating the Texans like a collection of 11 marionettes, running furiously when he sniffed the goal line."

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer: "Jackson's second-half heights were stratospheric. In finishing 9-for-11 for 100 yards and a touchdown — with no sacks — and rushing five times for 50 yards and two scores, the presumptive NFL Most Valuable Player favorite averaged a remarkable 0.98 expected points added per play, according to TruMedia, the fourth-most-efficient second half of his career."

Pressbox’s Bo Smolka: "Not only did Jackson win this game, but he took the game over. At halftime, he implored his team with a pep talk that he admitted might not be appropriate for family television, and then in the second half, he stayed a step ahead of a Texans defense that had harassed and frustrated him for the first 30 minutes."

Ravens Offense Heralded for Second Half Adjustments

The Texans defense got the better of the Ravens offense by the end of the first half. Jackson connected with Nelson Agholor for the Divisional round's first touchdown, but the Texans countered with multiple three-and-out's by sending more pressure than Jackson had ever seen.

But after a rousing halftime speech and conversations with coaches, Jackson, Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and others made the necessary corrections to steamroll the upstart Texans.

According to King, Jackson spoke with Quarterbacks Coach Tee Martin to change their plan.

"I talked to Coach Tee," Jackson said to King. "I said, 'We can't keep trying to get deep and developing routes because our guys can only block for so long. Then it might be holding, or me getting sacked. I gotta move. Just gotta get the ball out.'[add quote]"

 The Ravens went on to score three straight touchdowns and score on four straight possessions, and praise is being showered on all those involved.’s Judy Battista: "After a rocky start, the Ravens' offense adjusted in the second half, emphasizing getting completions and going faster. Jackson picked the Texans apart, taking short completions rather than trying to push the ball down the field. The game turned on the Ravens' first drive of the second half, when Jackson completed three short passes."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "The Ravens had no answers for the Texans blitzes in the first half. Jackson was sacked three times and didn't appear comfortable at all. However, offensive coordinator Todd Monken made some adjustments. The Ravens came out in the second half and were more aggressive passing on early downs. Jackson got the ball out quickly. There were more options in the quick game. The offensive line was much better in protection. On the first three drives of the second half, the Ravens scored three touchdowns on six-, 12- and 11-play drives."

"The Ravens were a little off to start the game, at least offensively. But in the second half, they looked like the fresher and more primed team. Halftime adjustments by offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who watched his quarterback get blitzed over and over again in the first half, were a major difference in the game. Monken was much more aggressive on early downs at the start of the third quarter. He gave Jackson more options in the quick passing game and worried less about creating chunk plays. In the second half, Baltimore had the answer to Houston's blitz. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson was 13-of-18 against an extra rusher for 120 yards and two touchdowns. The 75 percent blitz rate he faced was a career high."

Pressbox’s Bo Smolka: "Experts like to say the sign of good coaching is the ability to make adjustments, to quickly assess what worked and what didn't in the first 30 minutes, and then in the crucible of a frenetic, hurried halftime, make changes accordingly. … In the second half, though, Monken and the Ravens put on a master class. The Ravens' first three drives after halftime went for 55, 88 and 83 yards, with all of them ending in touchdowns."

Running Back Rushing Attack Deserves Recognition, Too

Ravens running backs combined for 129 of the 229-yard rushing affair on Saturday. And while Jackson's performance and the modifications to the game plan caught the attention of everyone, the running backs who earned the hard-fought yards were a mighty part of the equation, too.

At the top of the list is Justice Hill, who finished with 66 yards on 13 carries (5.1 YPC).

Battista: "Jackson was electric, as always. But he was just one part of a run game that wore down the Texans' defensive front and ended up with 229 yards. Even the newly signed Dalvin Cook got in on the act, rushing eight times for 23 yards."’s Nick Shook: "Justice Hill and Gus Edwards paced a classically hard-running ground attack for the Ravens, combining to finish with 106 yards on 23 attempts. Veteran Dalvin Cook, a recent elevation from the practice squad, even got in on the action, handling the running duties in the final quarter and finishing with 23 yards on eight attempts. Baltimore is such an intimidating team because while Jackson powers them, they're so much more than just a team carried by a superstar signal-caller. The Ravens can bludgeon you on the ground, light it up through the air, and if you stop those two elements, Jackson will likely find a crease with his legs. All three worked Saturday."

Ravens Defense "Flat Out Dominated"

The Texans offense found the end zone against every team they faced in 2023, save one.

Neither in Week 1 nor the Divisional round, the Ravens defense ceased to give them access to the end zone, and on Sunday they never even made it in the red zone. Pundits all gave credit to the tenacious defense and Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald.

Shook: "Fresh off a 45-14 bludgeoning of the Browns chock full of explosive plays, Houston fell back to earth faster than a spacecraft returning from orbit. Rookie sensation C.J. Stroud never had an opportunity to get comfortable in the pocket, constantly bailing out of it amid relentless pressure brought by the Ravens, who threw a wrench into offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik's attack from the very start. The Texans' running game never showed up, totaling just 38 yards on the ground as a team, allowing Ravens rushers to pin their ears back and hunt Stroud. To the rookie's credit, he completed 19 of 33 passes for 175 yards, but everything was incredibly difficult for him. Houston failed to reach the end zone offensively, and by the time the Ravens took a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, it was painfully obvious the Texans would never catch up. Baltimore's defense — which excels at creating pressure from unexpected angles — flat out dominated, sending the scrappy Texans home in convincing fashion."

NFL Research: "Baltimore shut the Houston offense out of the end zone in both of their meetings this season, becoming the only team to do so even once in the 2023 season."

Next Gen stat of the game: C.J. Stroud faced pressure on a career-high 51.4% of dropbacks, finishing 7 of 17 on pressured attempts for 62 yards and a completion percentage over expected of -2.1 percent.

ESPN’s Seth Walder: "The Ravens' defense didn't blink against Houston the way the Browns did in the wild-card round, and the unit was dominant, particularly against the run where Baltimore allowed negative-0.29 EPA per play. It's nothing new for the Ravens' defense, which now ranks first in EPA per play over the course of the season, playoffs included."

The Athletic's Zak Keefer: "The Texans (11-8) failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time since Week 1 — also a loss in Baltimore. Stroud was stymied by the Ravens' rush, rarely seeing a clean pocket or receiver with much separation in the back end. He finished with just 175 passing yards…"

The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker: "Baltimore held Stroud, the No. 2 overall draft pick in April, to just 68 yards passing in the second half. A week after putting up a passer rating of 157.2 against a stout Browns defense, he finished 19 of 33 for just 175 yards with zero touchdowns against the Ravens."

The Baltimore Banner's Giana Han: "Over the course of the game, the Ravens sent 12 different players, from linemen to linebackers to defensive backs, barreling toward Stroud. They rushed with speed, as well, registering their third-quickest time to pressure of the season (2.40 seconds), according to Next Gen Stats."

Crowd Noise a Factor vs. Texans; Expected to Be the Same vs. Chiefs

By the game's end, the Ravens had all things working for them. The offense buried the Texans with 24-straight points, the defense engulfed the Texans offense, and the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium doubled the Texans' offensive scoring in pre-snap penalties.

 "One can say the Texans ran out of gas, but truly, the environment was too big for them," Shook wrote. Baltimore's crowd affected the game from the beginning, forcing multiple false starts, and Mike Macdonald's relentless defense sucked the life out of the Texans, who had been brimming with it in their blowout win over Cleveland a week ago."

It wasn't just on Saturday that the Ravens home crowd has involved itself in the game, either.

"The fans have been helping all season. According to the Ravens, they've helped cause more opponent false starts (19) and delay penalties (9) than any other home team during the 2023 season (regular + playoffs)," Han wrote. "[Roquan] Smith said he got a taste of how hostile M&T Bank Stadium was last year. Now he's looking forward to continuing to see it in the postseason."

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