The night before every game, one Ravens player gives the speech to the entire team. Before the Ravens' wild-card playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, that player was Lamar Jackson.
Jackson isn't the most outspoken guy. He doesn't relish taking the mic and stepping to the center. But everybody knew the significance behind Sunday's wild-card playoff game for Jackson.
Jackson has broken numerous records in his young NFL career. He won the NFL MVP in his second season. He had won 30 games and lost just seven.
But he had never won in the playoffs. Oh-and-two. It was a stat that hung over Jackson's head.
What Jackson said in that team meeting wasn't revealed, but there's no doubt that Jackson silenced the playoff narrative Sunday afternoon, and it started Saturday night.
"Great players, I feel like, (lead) in a lot of different ways. Some of them are very vocal, some of them aren't very vocal, and some are like Lamar," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "When he speaks, he speaks volumes. When he speaks, you know he means business. When he talked to the team last night, I was sitting in my room on Zoom and I'm like, 'I know we are going to win the game tomorrow. I know Lamar is going to have a great game tomorrow.'"
Jackson brought the Ravens back from an early 10-point hole with a 48-yard touchdown run. He and a suffocating defense led them the rest of the way to a 20-13 win in the wild-card playoffs – giving him his first career playoff win and the first for the Ravens since 2014.
Jackson threw for 179 yards and ran for another 136 in a gutsy effort against a Titans defense hell-bent on stopping him. He made the biggest plays when it mattered most.
But asked for his feelings on ending the can't-win-in-the-playoffs narrative, Jackson simply said, "It feels good." Asked if it felt like a weight off his shoulders, he shrugged and said, "Yeah, I guess."
"I knew we had the capability of doing that, but there's always going to be naysayers – no matter what," Jackson said. "It's just one game at a time. I appreciate the win, a hard-fought team victory."
Jackson's coaches and teammates know the significance. Head Coach John Harbaugh gave Jackson a game ball in the locker room. Harbaugh downplayed Jackson's 0-2 playoff start storyline this week, but he understood the attention on it. Harbaugh said there was a big cheer and a little dancing when Jackson got his game ball.
"I felt like our guys all played well, and they were just happy for him," Harbaugh said. "It's something that he won't have to talk about in the future, and that's a meaningful thing."
The funny part is Jackson's first playoff win seemed to mean more to his teammates than it did to him.
"I'm happy for myself, but I'm almost more happy for Lamar, you know?" Humphrey said. "It sucks to be in his position at times that, when you lose, it's all his fault. It's nobody else's fault. It wasn't the defense's fault; it's always Lamar's fault. ... So, I'm really happy for my quarterback, and I'm happy he's on my team."
"I'm super proud of him – just to get that monkey off his back," said wide receiver Marquise Brown, one of Jackson's closest friends. "Now, we can just try to build on it and keep going."
It wasn't smooth sailing at the start, and no Ravens fan would be blamed if they felt a little déjà vu setting in early. The Ravens went three-and-out on their first drive, then Jackson was intercepted on a deep pass intended for Miles Boykin on his second drive.
The Titans jumped out to a 10-0 lead, putting the Ravens in an early hole many pundits doubted Jackson could dig them out of. The Ravens hadn't overcome a 10-point deficit this season and they'd fallen short in their previous two playoff losses.
It could have been a moment when Jackson's ultra-competitiveness or frustration got the best of him. Not this time.
"My guys – they just came up to me [and said], 'We've got your back,'" Jackson said. "And I was telling them the same thing. I wasn't shying away from the game at all. After the turnover, I just locked in even more, and we just battled."
Jackson completed an improbable 17-yard pass on a sideline scamper on the next drive to move the chains on third-and-7. Then he dropped a perfect 28-yard pass to Brown. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal, but Jackson got them off the ropes.
On the next drive, Jackson showed exactly why he's a special talent. His 48-yard touchdown run, in which he blazed by multiple Titans defenders, tied the game at 10 and the Ravens never trailed again. Harbaugh called it the best run he's ever seen from a quarterback.
"We needed points at that point. It got us back in the game," Harbaugh said.
Jackson had a key 23-yard run on the Ravens' opening drive of the second half, in which they took their first lead. On a field-goal drive in the fourth quarter, he didn't miss a pass and ripped off a 14-yard run. Jackson led the Ravens with 16 carries for 136 yards. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards combined for 17 and 81 yards.
"He took over the game, and he did what he needed to do to put us in the best position to win," left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. "Personally, I don't think he's ever played bad in the playoffs."
After Marcus Peters picked off Ryan Tannehill late in the fourth quarter, Jackson had a 33-yard run on second-and-10 that all but sealed the Ravens' win. Asked after the game which run felt better – that one or the long touchdown – Jackson said the final kneel at the very end of the game.
What Jackson cares most about, by far, is winning. But everybody wants to prove their doubters wrong.
"I wasn't really worried about it," Jackson said of the now-dead playoff narrative. "It's just my third year in the league. I don't really care what people say. I'm just happy we got the win and [we get to] move on to the next round, that's it."