Stephen A. Smith: 'Joe Burrow Just Appears to Be on Another Level'
Joe Burrow threw for a career-high 416 yards and three touchdowns in the Cincinnati Bengals' resounding 41-17 win in Baltimore on Sunday.
Conversely, Lamar Jackson completed 48 percent of his passes for 257 yards (and ran for another 88 yards) as he suffered his worst loss as a starter in the NFL.
While the lopsided score was something no one saw coming, the hot takes and overreactions following the game were predictable.
The most half-baked hot take goes to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, who said that he would take Burrow over Jackson going forward.
"I know how electrifying Lamar Jackson is, but I've been a stickler for years that when you play the quarterback position I have to believe in your ability to throw the football consistently. I'm not thinking playmaking," Smith said on "First Take." "First, you have to show me that consistently you can be accurate in throwing the football. … That is the lone question that I've had about Lamar Jackson.
"He was the leading rusher [Sunday]; they had nobody else running the football for them; he was sacked five times; he was under pressure; I get that. I loved that touchdown pass to Hollywood Brown; I get it. But consistently, watching them throw the football, Joe Burrow just appears to be on another level."
No disrespect to Burrow, who obviously is a terrific player and has a bright future, but Smith's comments are the latest example of Jackson being ridiculously underappreciated and held to a different standard than other quarterbacks.
For the record, Jackson has a 78-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 101.7 passer rating for his career; Burrow has a 30-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 96.4 rating. Jackson is 35-9 as a starter; Burrow is 7-9-1.
Talk about recency bias. There's no disputing Burrow bettered Jackson on Sunday, but after Smith correctly pointed out that Jackson was under pressure and had no running game, he discounted those factors anyway.
Did Smith forget the previous Jackson-Burrow matchup last season, when Jackson threw two touchdown passes (and one interception) to lead the Ravens to a 27-3 win? Burrow threw for 183 yards with one interception and fumbled twice in that game.
It wasn't like Jackson relied on his running ability that day either. He had just three yards on two carries (Burrow had 10 yards on three carries).
Fortunately, Ryan Clark was the voice of reason.
"We're talking about Lamar Jackson like he's a finished product," Clark said. "We're not talking about Lamar Jackson like Joe Burrow's not older than he is. Lamar Jackson already has an MVP. Lamar Jackson isn't playing with the Ja'Marr Chases. Lamar Jackson isn't playing with the Joe Mixons. … All of his running backs were on teams and cut and released. That's why he's the leading rusher. That's why he has to go for 500 yards in prime time to get this team a win.
"Lamar Jackson is playing at such a high level right now [that} I think that we are ignoring it because we've seen it before. We saw him win the MVP. We saw him carry a team. Lamar Jackson is on pace to again give us something we've never seen, and y'all act like it's not happening."
Analyst Says Ravens Need to Get Jackson Under Center More
An optimist would insist that the loss to the Bengals was just one game for the Ravens (5-2), who had won five straight. But excluding convincing wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos, the Ravens' flaws have been on display.
While much of the focus has been on the Ravens' issues on defense (poor tackling, inconsistent defending the pass), former NFL executive Michael Lombardi said the team needs to fix the offense.
Lombardi said rather than spending their bye week concentrating solely on their game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 7, the Ravens should be thinking about how to get things right for the playoffs.
"If Baltimore doesn't get Lamar Jackson under center, if they don't get him to where he can run more of bootleg, naked scheme and they continue to rely on the RPO game, they continue to rely on the over routes, they continue to rely on him running the ball, they're not going to win three playoff games. They're not going to win two playoff games," Lombardi said on "The GM Shuffle" podcast. "They're going to come against a coordinator who's going to take it away.
"Give credit to the Bengals and their coaching staff because they've seen it, they know how to play them and they did a great job of handling it. They were able to attack a bad offensive line for Baltimore, because it's a bad line, let's face it. Which is even more the reason why they should have Lamar under center. I think this is one of those moments in the season where, if you're John Harbaugh on the bye week, your goal isn't to play better next week, your goal is to prepare the team to play at the highest level in the playoffs. And it starts [with] how to solve this problem today. … This was a commentary on what's wrong with the Ravens come playoff time, and if they don't fix it now, it's going to haunt them again."
Harbaugh said yesterday that the Ravens are indeed thinking about the long term.
"[We're] just going to work on looking at the last game, making the corrections, and also applying to any long-term corrections that we want to make that we'll study over the rest of the week," he said.
Should Justin Tucker Have Attempted Long Field Goals Against Bengals?
When you have arguably the greatest kicker in NFL history, it's understandable for fans to want to send him in to attempt a field goal under 60 yards every time the opportunity arises, especially in a tight game.
So eyebrows were raised when Harbaugh opted to punt rather than have Justin Tucker attempt field goals of 57 and 58 yards against the Bengals when the score was tied 3-3 midway through the second quarter and the Ravens were down 20-17 midway through the third quarter.
"That was past our line at that point," Harbaugh said yesterday. "There was a crosswind coming pretty hard from their bench, their sideline to our sideline, and we didn't feel like that was really a … It was a low-percentage kick at that point. Could 'Tuck' make it? Yes, in a situation where you had to make it, but it was a pretty low-percentage kick at that point, so we said no."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said Harbaugh's reasoning for playing the field position game was sound.
"Tucker has earned all the confidence that people have in him, but let's look at some numbers," Zrebiec wrote. "In his 10-year career, Tucker is 4-for-12 on field-goal attempts from 57 yards and beyond. Three of those makes, including the one earlier this season to beat the Detroit Lions, were indoors. So Tucker has made one field goal in his career at M&T Bank Stadium from 57 yards and beyond.
"Does it mean he wouldn't have made the two kicks Sunday? No. Dismissing Tucker's chances from anywhere on the field is never a good idea and he deserves the benefit of the doubt. But those would have been extremely tough kicks to make and taking the stance that Harbaugh flushed six points down the toilet is making an assumption based on something that Tucker has rarely done in his career. And if Tucker misses either one of them, you're giving the Bengals the ball right around midfield in a game that was tied or extremely close at the time of the decisions."
Ravens Select Inside Linebacker in CBS Sports' Latest Mock Draft
In CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso's latest mock draft, he has the Ravens selecting an inside linebacker in the first round for the second time in three years.
Utah's Devin Lloyd was mocked to the Ravens with the 28th pick.
"The Ravens add a tall, rangy linebacker to their disruptive defense. He'll be a movable chess piece for [Defensive Coordinator] Wink Martindale," Trapasso wrote.
The Ravens selected Patrick Queen with the 28th-overall pick in 2020.
Ravens Are Among Top 10 Fastest Teams
The Ravens are the 10th-fastest team in the league, according to a study by ESPN.
To create the speed rankings, ESPN factored in each team's fastest players at every position who see plenty of playing time and weighted each position's average yards covered per second for the players' fastest plays since the beginning of the 2020 season.
The Ravens' overall average yards per second is 9.47. The offense is No. 5 (9.50), while the defense came in at No. 23 (9.45).
Not surprisingly, Jackson was No. 1 among quarterbacks (10.03), but the Ravens' running backs ranked 26th (9.05). Wide receiver Hollywood Brown is the Ravens' top speedster (10.26).