Lamar Jackson was in the locker room when he saw backup quarterback Trace McSorley go down with an injury. He knew he had to get back on the field – ASAP.
Jackson was back in the game on the next play and engineered what will go down as one of the most unreal wins in Ravens history with a 47-42 December triumph in Cleveland.
Jackson went to the locker room in the third quarter because of cramps. It started in his forearm after a long incompletion and, not long after, it had spread to his legs.
"I'm like, 'I need something now to help me get better really quick, because this is a crucial game right here," Jackson said. "As soon as I saw him go down, I started running out of the locker room."
Jackson said he got salt and stretched out in the locker room – nothing more than that.
Writing that is almost as unbelievable as Monday night's game itself.
Jackson swooped into action just in the nick of time, with the Ravens facing a fourth-and-5 and trailing by one point with under two minutes left. And that's when he delivered a play that won't soon (ever?) be forgotten.
Jackson rolled to his right and made the Browns believe he was going to take off running to try to pick up the first down. Instead, he flung a pass to a wide-open Marquise Brown for a 44-yard touchdown to take the lead. It's only fitting that Brown's nickname is "Hollywood."
"We had a great play called, I dropped back, it looked like they were in man [coverage] … and I was making a scramble to my right, and Marquise just came open," Jackson said. "I just had to give him a playable ball, and he just did the rest."
The Ravens were ahead by 14 points when Jackson went to the locker room. But the Browns wiped it out with back-to-back touchdown drives. With McSorley under center, the Ravens had a three-and-out after Brown dropped a wide-open third-down conversion.
Baltimore was on the brink of field-goal range when McSorley suffered an injury. With Robert Griffin III on injured reserve, the Ravens had no more healthy quarterbacks available, and would have had to turn to wide receiver Willie Snead IV if Jackson wasn't ready to go back in.
"As I'm seeing [McSorley] go down, I was still stretching," Jackson said. "I was catching an attitude, because it wasn't going the way we wanted it to. And then I saw him go down, and I was like, 'We've got to start now. We've just got to go out there now.' And I started running out there."
Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't know when Jackson would be ready and there was no indication that he was coming back. Jackson's teammates didn't even know what was wrong with him.
"You see Willie taking snaps – 'Steamin' Willie' – he's played quarterback before. If we had to do that, we were going to make it work," tight end Mark Andrews said. "Then, Lamar [Jackson] shows up and saves the day."
The touchdown to Brown would have been enough to create the lore, but with the way Baker Mayfield and the Browns kept fighting back, it wasn't. Cleveland stormed back down the field 75 yards in just four plays to tie the game with one minute, four seconds remaining.
Jackson has heard plenty of commentary about his inability to lead a comeback win. The fact is he hasn't had many over his young career, in part because he's been so good that he often hasn't had to. But Jackson needed to air it out and move the Ravens quickly if they were going to win in regulation.
Jackson carved the Browns up with precision on the final drive, completing back-to-back 14-yard passes to Andrews, then one to Snead for six yards and another to Andrews for four. That was enough for Justin Tucker to boom through a 55-yard game-winner.
As the reigning MVP with countless records already in his three seasons, Jackson has checked off a lot of boxes so far. But Monday night's win will be one of those classic stories that Jackson, Ravens fans, and even any old football fan, will tell years from now.
"It's a game that's going to go down in history," Harbaugh said. "If you wrote a movie about this, people wouldn't believe it. They would say it could never happen."