Lamar Jackson was the NFL's MVP last year. This year, he'll have to settle for Ravens MVP, but that will be just fine with him as long as Baltimore continues its run.
The Ravens' media corps voted Jackson as the team MVP for the second straight season, becoming the first Ravens player to win in back-to-back seasons since running back Ray Rice (2011 and 2012).
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey finished second in voting and offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and kicker Justin Tucker were tied for third.
As is customary for Jackson, he was thankful, yet modest.
"I appreciate that," Jackson said. "You know, I always tell you guys I feel like that's a team award. We've been through so much adversity this year and humps and stuff like that. Guys just found a way to pull through and keep fighting, especially for this playoff run."
It was a challenging start for Jackson coming off last year's historic season. All eyes were on him, including from opposing defenses.
Jackson had some tough games in the first half of the season, particularly in the team's first two losses against Kansas City and Pittsburgh. After a home defeat to the Steelers in which he turned the ball over four times, including his first career pick-six, Jackson put the loss on his shoulders.
The Ravens went on a three-game losing skid and Jackson caught COVID-19. He had a tough bout with the virus, which kept him sidelined for the third of those defeats in Pittsburgh – a loss that knocked the Ravens out of contention for the AFC North crown.
But since returning, Jackson has also returned to his MVP form from a year ago. Over the past four weeks, he's thrown for eight touchdowns to two interceptions, run for four touchdowns and posted 80 or more rushing yards in three of the four games.
No performance was more inspiring than his Monday Night Football win over the Cleveland Browns, when Jackson came back from cramps just in time to throw a fourth-and-5 touchdown pass and put the Ravens in position for Tucker's 55-yard game-winner.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he's "very proud" of the resiliency Jackson has shown this season.
"He's a guy that can look tough situations squarely in the eye and try to figure out a way to overcome them," Harbaugh said. "He never gets too down about anything. He's always upbeat and always works hard."
In his third season, Jackson has a chance to lead the Ravens to the playoffs for the third straight year as their starter – an accomplishment not many quarterbacks have pulled off.
He took over midway through his rookie season in 2018 and galvanized the team down the stretch, winning six of the final seven regular-season games. He was the driving force in the team's franchise-best 14-2 season last year. And now he has been the catalyst in Baltimore's turnaround from a 6-5 record to their current win-and-get-in Week 17 scenario.
Jackson replaced another Ravens quarterback who enjoyed immediate NFL success. Joe Flacco and the Ravens went to the playoffs each of his first five seasons, winning a Super Bowl in his fifth year in 2012. The Ravens are hoping they can climb that mountain two years sooner with Jackson.
"Lamar is a special person. He's a talented guy, of course," Harbaugh said. "He's in the process of proving himself, and making a name for himself, and building a career as a quarterback in the National Football League. … We're proud to be a part of it and we'll help in every way we can."