Lamar Jackson Flips the Script
It's amazing how one performance, even one as dazzling as Lamar Jackson put on Sunday night, could change the narrative so greatly.
With the Ravens' 36-35 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, Jackson reminded everyone why he was a unanimous NFL MVP two years ago and gave a stiff arm to the "the league is figuring him out" crowd.
"Maybe it's time to stop asking the questions," USA Today’s Mike Jones wrote. "Maybe, after Sunday night's 36-35 comeback victory over nemesis Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, it's time to accept the fact that Lamar Jackson is never going to play quarterback in accordance with some Quarterbacking 101 guide. He's not even going to play the position like Mahomes, regarded by many as the gold standard for this generation of quarterbacks.
"But the Baltimore Ravens quarterback is, however, fully capable of putting his team on his back and carrying it to victories while utilizing a special array of talents that few can duplicate and that defenses will continually struggle to stop. That's what elite quarterbacks do, right? And maybe – just maybe – we can allow that to be enough."
Even NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks, who suggested before this year's draft that the Ravens could consider selecting Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and letting Jackson "graduate," is gushing about Jackson.
"Although his unorthodox playing style drives his critics up the wall, Jackson is a baller with the secret sauce needed to play at an A-plus level when needed," Brooks wrote. "Whether he utilizes his legs to create explosive plays in the running game or relies on his athleticism to extend plays on scramble tosses, the young playmaker finds a way to keep the Ravens' offense on schedule.
"If quarterbacks are judged on wins instead of gaudy passing statistics, it's difficult to dispute Jackson's value to the Ravens as a dynamic playmaker with the capacity to win games as a runner or thrower."
The key word there is "playmaker." Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd said if we changed the name of the quarterback position to "playmaker," all the harping on what Jackson supposedly can't do would go away.
"Lamar Jackson is so gifted, so fast, he doesn't need to be Tom Brady throwing the football down the field," Cowherd said. "The other thing about Lamar is that when you are a playmaker, you create your own inertia. Let's say I told you that Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are out next week for the Chiefs. Even with Patrick Mahomes you'd be like, 'Well, it's not going to be the same offense.' If I told you Stefon Diggs won't play for the Bills next week [and] Cole Beasley's out, you'd be like, 'Oh, well [Josh Allen] won't be as good.'
"With Lamar, he lost his entire backfield a couple weeks ago. It doesn't really matter. He had the ball 36 minutes [Sunday] night. … He's really not as dependent as a Brady or a Mahomes or a Josh Allen on great teammates. He creates his own plays. Just change the name of the position to playmaker and I think we would all agree there's just none on the planet that looks like that."
Sports Illustrated's Robin Lundberg said: "Lamar Jackson is the most valuable player to his team. He is the Baltimore Ravens. Stopping him is the only key to stopping them, and still no one can do it. Dude is that special."
NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha said Jackson will make another run at MVP this season.
"Jackson showed that he still can carry this offense, that it doesn't matter who lines up in the backfield with him and that Baltimore can do damage when winter arrives," Chadiha wrote. "There isn't a quarterback in the league who will be asked to do more for his team in the coming months.
John Middlekauff of the "3&Out" podcast said he's even more impressed with Jackson's competitiveness than his immense talent.
"Whenever I see Lamar talk after wins or losses he has won me over," Middlekauff said. "What determines your success or failures is your mindset, your willingness and your competitive character. His competitiveness is elite.
"He's a much better thrower than we ever thought he'd be. You watch that game [Sunday] night, you have some of the most elite competitors in the entire NFL, and he basically willed this team to win. And it's essential at quarterback because everyone's looking at you in the huddle, all 10 other guys. And let's face it, really your whole team is. You are the star of the team. I have nothing but respect for the player."
Asked Sunday night whether he expects the criticism of him to go away following the Chiefs win, Jackson had his doubts.
"The noise will go away, then it will come back somehow," he said. "It's going to always be like that as long as I'm playing, I feel, so I don't really care about it. I'm just going to keep playing."
Surreal Win Over Chiefs Shows Ravens Can Still Dream Big This Season
It's OK to admit it, Ravens Flock.
This time last week, the morning after a gut-wrenching, season-opening loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, some of you were ready to write this off as a lost season.
With key players having suffered season-ending injuries, a bunch of other players banged up and the team's kryptonite coming to town, the Ravens were staring at a possible 0-2 start.
The last time Baltimore started 0-2, it also was an injury-hampered 2015 "déjà vu all over again."
However, after the Ravens' thrilling win over the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, a quote from the great Rowdy Roddy Piper came to mind: "Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions."
In one magical night, the question surrounding the Ravens went from "is their season over?" to "how far can they go?"
The Associated Press’ Noah Trister said the win over the Chiefs shows the banged-up Ravens can still dream big about their goals this season.
"After a loss in the opener at Las Vegas, this game re-established Baltimore as a serious contender, injuries and all," Trister wrote.
Talk of Fame Network’s Clark Judge wrote: "Consider that a giant step for the Baltimore Ravens. They were 0-3 vs. Mahomes and 0-4 vs. Andy Reid since he took over Kansas City. Until they overcame those hurdles, the Ravens couldn't be considered serious playoff threats. Maybe now they will. Because they just did what nobody else has dating to 2018 — beat the Chiefs and Mahomes in September."
Actually, Mahomes had never lost in September.
Although it was just one game, "Good Morning Football's" Peter Schrager said it showed why the Ravens were being written off too soon.
"This team is resilient. They're not going anywhere," Schrager said. "Guess what? They're 1-1. They're tied atop the AFC North. Everything's just fine. And Baltimore lives to fight another day."
Wink Martindale, Greg Roman Deserve Credit for Game Plans Against Chiefs
As great as Jackson was against the Chiefs, he'd be the first to say that it wasn't a one-man show. Case in point: When Harbaugh praised Jackson in his post-game speech in the locker room, the quarterback interrupted to credit the play of his maligned offensive line.
The defense also stepped up and made plays during crunch time, and Harbaugh is rightfully being lauded for his decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 43-yard-line with the Ravens clinging to a one-point lead with 1:05 left.
Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman also should not be overlooked.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec noted that Martindale's game plan of using a delayed rusher to disrupt Kelce at the line of scrimmage and also prevent Mahomes from stepping up too far in the pocket paid dividends.
The game-changing interception Mahomes threw late in the third quarter was a result of the scheme. Rookie Odafe Oweh first hit Kelce at the line before breaking off and charging at Mahomes, twisting him to the turf as Mahomes tried to flip a pass to Kelce.
"Under Martindale, the Ravens haven't gone to that defensive look. However, they've been practicing it with the Chiefs in mind," Zrebiec wrote. "Over the past two years, Mahomes has taken apart Martindale's wide array of blitzes. He was 23-for-31 for 287 yards and four touchdowns when the Ravens have sent more than four rushers. Martindale is an uber aggressive defensive play caller, but he also knew after last year's 34-20 loss that the Ravens would have to do something different rather than continuing to blitz Mahomes. The delayed rusher was part of that plan."
As for Roman, former Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz wrote on Twitter that "this is as diverse as I've seen Baltimore's run game. They're running all the schemes, and from an assortment of personnel packages. And just winning the blocks on top of it."
"That's saying something because Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has long been known for designing the most diverse and versatile run schemes," Zrebiec wrote. "To run for 251 yards with so much turnover on the offensive line and with three running backs who weren't expected to be on the Ravens' roster a month ago is quite a testament to Roman, who called a really nice game."
Sharp Football Analysis’ Dan Pizzuta said the adjustments the Ravens made on both sides of the ball Sunday night could bode well for the team going forward.
"Baltimore's path as an AFC contender is still tough given the injuries on the roster, but given the Ravens' ability to adapt in this game, a matchup they repeatedly approached the same way, there could be hope for more adjustments going forward and that could make the Ravens more dangerous and effective throughout the season," Pizzuta wrote.
Odafe Oweh Shows Why His College Stats Were Misleading
In keeping with today's theme about changing narratives, Oweh has done that as well just two games into his NFL career.
You can throw the "he had no sacks at Penn State last year" talk into the trash can, along with all the garbage takes on Jackson.
"What we saw from Oweh against the Chiefs is why stats in college football can be so misleading," The Athletic's Bruce Feldman wrote. "On paper, he didn't record a sack Sunday night either, but he did help produce two of the biggest plays in the game."
Oweh made the game's biggest defensive play when he stripped the ball from Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and recovered the fumble with 1:26 remaining. He also forced Mahomes into throwing the crucial interception in the third quarter.
"Both plays were prime examples of Oweh's special athleticism," Feldman wrote. "The D-line coach I spoke to before the draft said on Monday he also thinks what Oweh showed is a testament to a great fit between prospect and scheme."
"It's a great system for him," the coach said. "They really do a lot defensively and they can line him up everywhere. This is a guy who is faster than most of the safeties in the league, so he can make up for a mistake or a bad step. He can be a stand-up OLB and defensive end. Those guys have multiple looks and move their guys around. You are not concerned with an athlete like him in coverage either."
Tyreek Hill Responds to DeShon Elliiott's 'Clamp Clampington' Tweet
Hill was a thorn in the Ravens' side in his two previous meetings against them (he didn't play in the 2019 game due to injury), but the three-time All-Pro was quiet Sunday night.
He did have something to say yesterday on Twitter, however.
In response to Ravens safety DeShon Elliott tweeting the words "Clamp clampington" along with video of cornerback Anthony Averett breaking up a pass intended for Hill to force a key fourth-quarter punt, the speedy wide receiver wrote: "Keep that same energy when we match up again."
Hill was held to three catches for 14 yards and saw just four targets. In Hill's previous two games against the Ravens, he had a combined 13 receptions for 216 yards and a touchdown.
Averett was starting in place of All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL two weeks ago.