Lamar Jackson was the best player on the field Sunday, regardless of who wins the MVP award when the season ends.
Watching Jackson take over a game is nothing new. But watching Jackson play with such unbridled emotion was something different.
He led the Ravens to a 30-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in one of the most challenging road venues in the NFL. Jackson seemed to be at the center of almost every key moment, exhorting his teammates, pointing after first downs, even talking Head Coach John Harbaugh into going for it on fourth down in a critical situation.
Jackson percolated with energy Sunday, as if he had sipped a few cups of Seattle’s strongest coffee before he took the field. For the second straight game, he rushed for over 100 yards (14 carries, 116 yards, one touchdown) and his passing statistics (9-for-20, 143 yards) would have been better if not for a few drops by his receivers.
However, statistics don’t tell the story of Jackson’s impact on this game. The players on both teams felt it. So did many fans, some of whom chanted “MVP, MVP” as Jackson trotted off the field victorious.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (20 for 41, 241 yards, one touchdown, one interception) is the MVP candidate who usually rules at CenturyLink Field. But on this day, Wilson’s house became Jackson’s house because he refused to let the Ravens lose.
“I was just charged up,” Jackson said. “When we kill ourselves, it’s my job to make it right. I just got to make guys miss, do what I do.”
Jackson did what he does, as only he can do it. His signature drive came in the third quarter, with the score tied at 13-13. On third-and-15, Jackson made a superb scramble, zig-zagging his way for 13 yards to set up fourth-and-2 at Seattle’s 8-yard line.
Harbaugh sent the field goal unit onto the field, but Jackson was livid when he came to the sideline. He wanted to go for it and told Harbaugh, who called timeout and sent the offense back onto the field.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman called a quarterback keeper for Jackson, who made a brilliant 8-yard run into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Earlier in that drive, as the Ravens seemed to be headed for another red-zone field goal, Jackson had spiked the ball is disgust after the Ravens were called for a delay-of-game penalty when they didn’t snap the ball before the clock expired. Jackson was furious, but from that moment he channeled his anger into bringing out the best of his talent. His energy and his determination lifted the entire team.
“Football’s a game of a lot of aggression,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “ I felt like something different came out of Lamar. We’re looking to you, at the end of the day. It’s going in your hands every play. When I seen that, I got pumped. He gave me a little boost out there.”
Jackson’s speed and elusiveness were more impressive running on a wet field, on a day when he had trouble with his footing. He changed cleats during the game, then went back to his original cleats when he didn’t like the backup cleats either.
“That turf sucked. Then the rain didn’t help. It was ticking me off,” Jackson said. “I was running slow, I was getting caught by linebackers. Ain’t no way. I had to go back to my originals. Can’t get caught by no linebackers. I’d rather get some yards and slide than get caught.”
However, the Seahawks (5-2) didn’t catch Jackson nearly enough, not enough to stop the Ravens (5-2) from winning their third straight. Jackson is willing to do whatever it takes to win – throwing it, running it, or leading his teammates. Newly-acquired cornerback Marcus Peters, who made a pick-six in his Ravens debut, had his first experience playing with Jackson. Peters won’t forget it, and looks forward to seeing what Jackson will do next.
“Unbelievable,” Peters said. “The guy’s a playmaker and a tremendous leader. Lamar got some speed, man. That stop-and start-stuff he does his unbelievable. It’s only going to get better. We have yet to see the best of Lamar Jackson. I don’t know how you stop him.”