Lamar Jackson Silences Doubters — Again
In praising Lamar Jackson for engineering a go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 37-31 overtime in over the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, "Good Morning Football's" Peter Schrager said Jackson destroyed the narrative that he can't bring the Ravens back late in a game by throwing the ball.
"We ask so much from Lamar Jackson. We almost have a higher expectation for Lamar, and the one thing that you always hear is, 'Can he lead a team back? Can he do it with his arm?'" Schrager said. "Guys, that was a 13-play drive in the fourth quarter in the pouring rain, and Lamar's like, 'Come with me, I got us.' On the big third-and-, he throws a 21-yard touchdown while Aaron Donald is right in his face and he does it to Zay Flowers.
"I think this was Lamar's best game of the season. Lamar has been an MVP in this league; he has won a playoff game in this league; he's done a lot of great things. We always want more from Lamar. And after this long, laborious contract negotiation, it's like, 'Alright, can you do it when you're behind? Can you do it when it's not a blowout? Can you do it when it's not with your legs?' Lamar did it with his arm [Sunday]. I thought he was awesome in this game."
Schrager's point about there being a different set of expectations for Jackson than there is for other quarterbacks is spot-on. The proof is in the fact that Jackson's doubters were still questioning whether he could use his arm to lead the Ravens back from a deficit at crunch time.
Jackson had already proven his critics wrong in that regard more than two years ago in a prime-time win over the Indianapolis Colts. That night, Jackson engineered a record-setting 19-point comeback with touchdowns on four straight drives, and he did it almost exclusively with his arm.
When Healthy, Jackson Has Been Mr. December Throughout His Career
The Ravens have the toughest schedule in the NFL over the final four weeks of the season, but they also have a healthy Jackson, who has thrived in December in his career.
"Jackson is one of the NFL's best at this point in the season," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. "He improved to 14-3 (.824) in December, which is the NFL's second-best mark since 2018 behind Aaron Rodgers (17-3)."
Hensley noted that for the third straight year, the Ravens head into Week 15 atop the AFC North with a chance to capture the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They ended up settling for a wild-card berth in 2021 and 2022.
"But, unlike the past two years, Baltimore (10-3) is seen as a legitimate Super Bowl contender at this time of the year," Hensley wrote. "In 2021 and 2022 — when Jackson dealt with season-ending ankle and knee injuries — Baltimore went 2-3 in December without him. Sunday marked the first time since Dec. 5, 2021, that Jackson had started and finished a game in December."
Pat McAfee Says Home-Field Advantage 'Is the Real Deal' for Ravens
Thanks to the Miami Dolphins' stunning loss to the Tennessee Titans last night, the Ravens again are the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they hold onto it.
ESPN's Pat McAfee said playing at home is more of an advantage for the Ravens than it is for some other teams because of the atmosphere at M&T Bank Stadium.
"That stadium is awesome. Home-field advantage in some places is the real deal. Baltimore is one of them," McAfee said on "The Pat McAfee Show."
McAfee, a punter for the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-2016, said he knows firsthand how challenging it can be for an opposing team to play in Baltimore.
"There's some fan bases that understand they can be an advantage," McAfee said. "At M&T Bank Stadium, they are a stadium that understands it."
McAfee said the cold weather in Baltimore also favors the Ravens.
"The weather's not getting better. And with the way [Offensive Coordinator Todd] Monken is running that [offense], why not the Baltimore Ravens?" McAfee said.
McAfee isn't alone in his feeling that Baltimore is one of the league's toughest places to play. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said last month that M&T Bank Stadium and the Seattle Seahawks' Lumen Field are the two loudest stadiums he's played in.
Unheralded Players Are Making Key Contributions
The Ravens have an abundance of stars on their roster, but as Tylan Wallace's game-winning 76-yard punt return in overtime Sunday showed, role players have been instrumental to the team's success this season.
The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker noted that Wallace's heroics were aided by several of his equally unheralded teammates.
"Cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis, tight end Charlie Kolar, linebacker Josh Ross and running back Justice Hill all played pivotal roles with their blocks," Wacker wrote. Then Wallace, who'd been flagged for offside earlier in the game on a Rams punt that gave them a first down and ultimately led to a touchdown, did his part."
Wacker identified other role players who have made significant contributions this season. Here are some excerpts:
OLB Malik Harrison
"A little more than midway through the opening quarter of the Ravens' Thursday night prime-time game against the Bengals last month, Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon took a pitch with as many blockers in front of him as defenders. He'd already ripped off an 11-yard run earlier in the quarter, and another opportunity presented itself for the 2021 Pro Bowl selection. That is, until Harrison blasted Bengals tight end Mitchell Wilcox so far into the backfield while setting the edge that Mixon had to cut back inside — into an onslaught of Ravens defenders who brought him down for no gain.
"For Harrison, his ascent began, he said, in Week 4 in Cleveland. He played just 14 defensive snaps and finished with three tackles and one hit on Browns rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but his 82.7 overall grade by Pro Football Focus in the 28-3 victory was his second-highest of the season."
DE Brent Urban
"A one-time starter for the Ravens in 2018, injuries have taken their toll on the now 32-year-old Canadian, who bounced around the NFL before rejoining Baltimore in 2022. He was released twice by the Ravens each of the past two years but re-signed both times and been a solid contributor. Last season, he had 21 tackles, including two for loss, and a quarterback hit. This year, he has 18 tackles, including two for loss, and three quarterback hits. He also had the first fumble recovery of his career late in the first half of the Ravens' win three weeks ago against the Los Angeles Chargers that ultimately led to a field goal."
- Wallace and right tackle Morgan Moses made Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week.