Tyler Huntley didn't know he was going to start Sunday's game in Chicago until he was walking to the bus to head to the game.
Everybody saw that Lamar Jackson was sick – like really sick – on Saturday. And when he woke up on Sunday, Jackson wasn't any better.
But everybody (Huntley included) assumed that Jackson would have to be sicker than a dog to not play against the Bears in a game the Ravens had to win. Then Huntley got a text message from the man himself saying he just couldn't do it.
"It's crazy. I was walking towards the bus and Lamar texted me, he said, 'Go do your thing today. I'm going to be watching,'" Huntley said. "And I was like, 'All right, let's go.'"
Everybody that watches the Ravens, and many who don't, would probably say Baltimore doesn't stand a chance without Jackson. He has carried a banged-up offense through the first half of the season. But not everybody knows Huntley.
Making his first career start, the second-year undrafted quarterback led the Ravens to a comeback 16-13 win with a 72-yard drive with under two minutes left, setting up the game-winning 3-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman.
Huntley is just the fourth quarterback over the last 30 years to have a game-winning drive that started in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter in his first career start, per @EliasSports and ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"I know everyone around our facility, this organization knows how good that he is, and when he gets his opportunity – which he did today – that he was going to perform and shine," tight end Mark Andrews said. "But it's awesome for the world to see. It's a coming-out party for him, and I can't be more excited about it."
Huntley completed 26 of 36 passes for 219 yards and one interception. He also ran seven times for 40 yards. It was a grind that he had to keep plugging through. Huntley was sacked six times and fumbled once out of bounds. He threw an interception in the fourth quarter with the Ravens already in field-goal range to take the lead.
But Huntley helped push the Ravens into range for a win twice after his interception. First, he put them in range for a 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal to put Baltimore up, 9-6, with 3:41 left to play. When Andy Dalton and the Bears offense pulled off a fourth-and-11 49-yard touchdown, it looked like the Ravens were sunk, however.
Baltimore's offense had to claw for every yard all game and they were going to have to go the length of the field with less than two minutes left – without Jackson? Yeah, right.
"Tucker wasn't going to be able to do it this week," Huntley said. "We had to go down there and get us a touchdown. That's all we knew. … We've got to go get a touchdown to win. That's the only thing [I was thinking]."
Huntley has always had an easy-going, smiley demeanor about him. He and Jackson grew up competing against each other in South Florida and they just love playing the game.
As he took the field for the Ravens' drive, Huntley said he didn't feel any pressure.
"I think if I was feeling the pressure, we probably wouldn't even have won this game," Huntley said. "You've just got to go with the flow about winning the game. We knew we had to go down there and score, so we practiced that every day in practice, two-minute drill, so that's all it came down to."
The game-winning drive started with Rashod Bateman drawing a 21-yard pass interference penalty. Then Huntley found Devin Duvernay open deep along the right sideline for 21 yards. A holding penalty, however, looked to potentially doom Baltimore's chance, bringing on a third-and-12 from Chicago's 32-yard line.
That's when Huntley rolled to his right and heaved a pass deep to Sammy Watkins for a 29-yard catch that put the Ravens on the 3-yard line.
"They came at me, man, so I was just going through my reads and they just happened to drop him and he was wide open," Huntley said. "I was happy that I saw him."
Freeman punched in the 3-yard score on the next play, putting Baltimore on top with 22 seconds left. Huntley, an undrafted quarterback out of Utah just last year, had pulled off a feat many would have thought was impossible. He and the Ravens won without Jackson, without top wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, without left tackle Ronnie Stanley or running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. They won with, and because of, Huntley.
"That's something that you saw from him, right from Day One when he came in as an undrafted free agent, that it was not too big for him," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It was never too big in practice, never too big in a preseason game, and he came out here on the big stage, and it wasn't too big for him here, either."
After he came off the on-field celebration and CBS interview, Huntley said the first person that congratulated him as he walked into the locker room was Jackson. Huntley got a FaceTime call from his brother, who was wearing his jersey. Right when he hung up, his mom called.
"It's just a blessing for real because me sitting back where I was waiting on the call for the draft and whatnot, it just felt like I would never get to this point," Huntley said. "I'm here, so I'm blessed.
"It felt great that Coach Harbaugh gave me a chance. I was an undrafted free agent, and me to be here, to play a game for him and for this team, I feel like that's the best part of it. Me getting a win, me working towards the win, that's what put icing on the cake. I think it's amazing that they have so much trust in me going back to last year."