Lamar Jackson jogged off the field after a fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday night, and chants of “M-V-P” echoed through M&T Bank Stadium.
The second-year quarterback has put himself squarely in the middle of the league’s most valuable player conversation with a sterling first half of the season, which was capped off by Sunday’s 37-20 win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots.
“I’m right there with the crowd – this man is the MVP,” veteran safety Earl Thomas III said. “It’s unbelievable. He’s the MVP right now. He’s playing lights out.”
Jackson led the way for the Ravens in their upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. He added to his highlight reel of jaw-dropping juke moves, and finished the night with 163 passing yards and a touchdown, plus 61 rushing yards and two scores.
Led by Jackson, the Ravens put up 37 points against a Patriots defense that came into the game ranked atop the NFL in points allowed. New England hadn’t allowed more than 14 points all season.
Baltimore’s offense dominated the time of possession and came up with critical clock-chewing scoring drives to seal the win late in the game.
Much of the talk before the game was about how defensive mastermind Bill Belichick would try to scheme up ways to stop Jackson. He threw more different looks at Jackson than the quarterback has seen all season, but the second-year quarterback kept a level head.
“He did a great job tonight and the world saw it,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a very high football IQ. He also understands the moment. He has poise.”
Jackson entered the game with the fifth-best odds to win the MVP, trailing Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. Those odds could certainly look different Monday morning.
Jackson downplayed the MVP talk after the game, which is no surprise given the way he operates. He’s always quick to prop up the team, but never himself. Jackson heard the MVP chatter from the fans and the media, but wasn’t interested in crowning himself in any way.
“It’s pretty cool, but I’m focused on winning,” Jackson said.
His teammates, however, had no problem talking up his great season and how much he means to the Ravens. Just about every player who spoke to the media post-game stressed that Jackson should be leading the way in the MVP conversation.
Tight end Mark Andrews said there’s “no doubt” that Jackson is having an MVP-caliber season.
“He’s incredible,” he said. “There’s really no other way to describe it.”
“You can’t handle Lamar,” wide receiver Willie Snead IV said. “You’ve just got to go with it. Lamar is just a game-breaker at any time.”
Sunday was another example of Jackson’s ability to perform on the game’s biggest stage.
The fact that the Ravens were facing an undefeated team in primetime, with Tom Brady on the opposite sideline, made no difference to him. He didn’t hype the matchup more than any other game, and that demeanor showed in his play.
“I’m trying to win vs. anybody that I play. I don’t really dwell on one player. Like I said before, he’s still the GOAT,” Jackson said. “It’s pretty cool, but I don’t really care that it’s against Tom Brady. I just want to win.”
The talk around Jackson will only continue to grow after Sunday’s performance. The Ravens have the second-best record in the AFC and have won two-straight games against legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The Ravens look like a team poised to make serious noise this postseason, and if Jackson continues to play like he has the first half of the year, there’s no telling what the ceiling is for this team.
“We have to build off that,” Jackson said. “We can’t get on our high horse and feel like we just won the Super Bowl, because we didn’t. That’s just one regular season game. We have to continue to build.”