For the third straight week, Lamar Jackson walked off the field to MVP chants. This time it was on the road, in a game where he posted a "perfect" performance in three quarters as the Ravens routed the Cincinnati Bengals, 49-13.
"During a week when there were some questions about whether the Ravens could avoid a letdown, Jackson needed less than three minutes to provide the answer," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "He then spent the rest of the afternoon, gathering more material for his MVP candidacy."
The Ravens improved to 7-2 and earned their fifth straight win, matching their best start to a season under Head Coach John Harbaugh.
Here are some of pundits' takeaways from the win.
Lamar Jackson's Critics Are Running Out of Material
"He can't throw."
"Just wait until teams figure him out."
By now, you've heard the criticisms, but with each week, Jackson continues to convert critics into believers.
After throwing for 223 yards, three touchdowns, and posting a perfect quarterback rating (158.3) against the Bengals, Press Box’s Bo Smolka believes those critics are quickly losing material.
"It seems each week, Jackson provides more ammunition for his supporters, and shoots another hole in an argument of his detractors," Smolka wrote. "... Jackson doesn't operate like traditional NFL quarterbacks – as his remarkable spin-move touchdown so eloquently showed. But at this point, the critics are simply running out of reasons to discount him."
What about the quality of the competition? That can't be used as a criticism anymore.
Jackson led the Ravens to consecutive statement wins against the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. No NFL game is a given, but Baltimore has handled its business in games it's expected to win.
"T]he Ravens’ successes in those games can’t be explained away by poor competition,” [The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz wrote. "They destroyed the Dolphins and Bengals by a combined score of 108-23. But more important was their inventiveness. The Ravens could have beaten both teams without revealing their best cards, but instead they used those contests as laboratories to tinker with the machine that offensive coordinator Greg Roman has built.
What about the blueprint to stop Jackson?
The Bengals were the first team to face the Ravens offense twice this season, and the narrative that opposing defenses were going to figure out how to stop Jackson the second time around was quickly dismissed.
The Ravens entered Week 10 as the NFL's highest-scoring team on a per-game basis, and the offensive boom isn't a coincidence. Pundits have continually praised the organization's commitment to building around Jackson.
Instead of tailoring their quarterback around an offensive system, the Ravens have tailored an offensive system around Jackson.
"There will be a time in the near future when teams look at what Baltimore is building and realize that looking for a quarterback who vaguely reminds you of other successful quarterbacks in the past is a complete waste of time and resources," Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr wrote. "Instead, why not select the player who is most talented … full stop. The kind of player who, at least for now, is still undervalued by league standards because of dated, conventional thought."
"Jackson is threading balls to his fourth-best option on a given play. He's slipping standard containment packages without breaking a sweat. And all the while, the Ravens are re-thinking what it means to create play-action and open up the field for a quarterback."
Jackson told NFL Network’s Deion Sanders that his performance is paving the way for other dual-threat quarterbacks.
"There's a lot of us like this," Jackson said. "I'm going to keep doing what I do; we've just got to keep winning."
Jackson's 'MVP Moment' Breaks the Internet
It seems like almost every week Jackson provides us with an ankle-breaking play to add to the highlight reel, but Sunday might have topped them all.
Jackson juked, spun, and raced past multiple Bengals defenders on a 47-yard touchdown run that broke the internet.
"He can't be explained by the normal laws of time and space," Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman wrote. "Einstein might call Jackson the Theory of Lamartivity. The way he runs. The way he throws. It all seems like this is some spectacular dream. He is an agent from The Matrix, the child of Steve Young and Mike Vick and an obvious practitioner of the football dark arts."
After thrusting himself into the MVP conversation in recent weeks, some pundits believe Jackson's run was the signature stamp on his campaign.
Add Bengals safety Shawn Williams to list of defenders who would give Jackson their MVP vote.
"Jackson has made the Ravens, a team long known for its defense and long critiqued for having a plodding and boring offense, must-see television," Zrebiec wrote. "They've even made running the football look sexy. As long as the ball is in Jackson's hands, you want to see what will happen next."[quote]
NBC Sports’ Ryan Wormeli wrote: "We're just sitting here laughing. I mean, how else are you supposed to react to seeing a quarterback do this? Is Jackson the NFL's Most Valuable Player this season? There are plenty of games left to go, but it's moments like this that highlight how dynamic the Ravens' second-year passer can be."
"It made me think about something from his Heisman Trophy-winning year against Florida State," ESPN's Ryan Clark added. " … I say it and I'm sure a lot of other people say, 'You know what? He wouldn't do this to adults. He wouldn't do this to grown men in the NFL.' And he's making people look silly."
NBC Sports’ Peter King named Jackson as one of his Offensive Players of the Week.
"The definition of total control of a football game," King wrote. "It came in a 49-13 win over the Bengals, and we're not supposed to have jaws hit the floor watching people when they play the 0-9 Cincinnatians. Can't help it. Lamar Jackson played close to a perfect game Sunday, and he is on the verge of knocking Russell Wilson from his MVP perch. At age 22."
Here's a look at how the rest of social media reacted:
"At the NFL Honors, the night before the Super Bowl this year, is this the play that they're going to put up in front of the screen of the entire league and all the players?" NFL Network's Brian Baldinger said.
All 'Boom' For Marcus Peters With Ravens
I don't think anyone doubts Eric DeCosta's decision to trade for Marcus Peters. Seen as a "boom-or-bust" cornerback coming over from the Los Angeles Rams, it's been all boom for Peters and the Ravens so far.
"The dude is just a playmaker, plain and simple," Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko wrote. "When somebody is intercepting passes and scoring touchdowns with ease, you take the good with the bad. Since joining the Ravens, however, it's been all good, no bad. The former All-Pro cornerback has helped change the complexion of this Ravens defense."
Peters has more tackles in three games with the Ravens (15) than he had with the Rams in seven games (14) this season. He recorded his second pick-six in as many games and brings a dynamic ball-hawking presence to the secondary.
"Peters brings more entertainment value to the position than any player in recent Ravens history," The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote. "His pick-six was particularly important on a day when the Ravens defense did not play well for most of the first half. The Bengals moved the ball consistently on the ground and through the air. One big play, however, wiped out much of that work."
Even if he only ends up being a nine-game rental, Peters has already paid dividends for a Ravens' defense that is finding their stride. But the argument for keeping him long-term alongside Marlon Humphrey and a loaded secondary seems to grow stronger with each game.
O-Line Consistency Has Been Key For Offense's Success
With all the attention surrounding Jackson and the skill players (deservedly so), the offensive line has been a consistent force all season. There were questions and concerns about how the unit would fare heading into the year, but they put together another clean pocket for Jackson on Sunday.
"It's time to celebrate the line, a major area of uncertainty coming out of training camp, for more than durability," Walker wrote. "These guys have played well almost every week and did so again in Cincinnati, where Jackson took zero sacks, and the Ravens matched their usual efficiency on the ground, averaging 5.9 yards per carry."
Consistency is key, and Bradley Bozeman, Matt Skura, and Orlando Brown Jr. played 100 percent of the offensive snaps in the blowout win. Marshal Yanda is still blocking at an elite level at 35-years-old, and Ronnie Stanley is establishing himself as one of the league's best left tackles.
"Jackson receives much of the credit for the offense's efficiency given his elusiveness and the defensive attention he commands," Walker wrote. "But it's worth noting that the Ravens' creative offense makes unusual demands on the linemen, who have to be ready for anything on any given play. They're not there to pass block 45 times a game like many of their peers on other teams.
"The Ravens line isn't the best in the league in any one area, but it's above average in all respects, from protecting Jackson to preventing stuffs at the line of scrimmage."
Jackson in Sunglasses Becomes a Certified Meme
Who else is feeling the victory mood on this Monday morning?
Jackson was feeling it late in the fourth quarter, rocking a pair of shades that caught the attention of the national audience.
TheBigLead’s Brian Giuffra thinks Jackson was sending a message.
"Was the message focused on people saying he wasn't a QB coming into the NFL?" Guiffra wrote. "Or was it the doubters saying his rookie year last season was a fluke? Doesn't matter either way. He's an NFL MVP candidate and he's letting the world know with his not-so-subtle sunglasses choice."
Or, maybe he just wanted to pay homage to one of the greats.
Or maybe he was just having some fun.
- Jackson vs. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is already beginning to garner plenty of hype.
- Pat Ricard continues to establish himself as one of the NFL's most unique two-way players, and Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler named him as one of his unsung heroes from Sunday's win: "It's not just about him being the fullback, he can make a difference on defense. Ricard had three tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. That forced fumble resulted in a Tyus Bowser touchdown. Ricard may be the best fullback in football, and now he's providing even more value."