When Lamar Jackson can't play, Tyler Huntley doesn't flinch.
The Ravens dropped a 24-22 decision to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but Huntley's play gave them a chance to win.
Taking over at quarterback after Jackson suffered a sprained ankle on the first play of the second quarter, Huntley completed 27 of 38 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown, and he also made plays with his legs (six carries, 48 yards).
With Baltimore (8-5) fighting for a division championship and a playoff spot with four weeks remaining in the regular season, Huntley would play a major role in Baltimore's fate if Jackson remains sidelined.
Whenever Huntley has to play, the Ravens trust him to deliver. Even though Huntley made some mistakes Sunday, he is clearly cut from the same resilient cloth that personifies this team. He keeps battling, and while many NFL teams struggle mightily when their backup quarterbacks play, Huntley is a playmaker who doesn't shrink from the spotlight.
"Tyler showed a lot of grit," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I felt like the whole team did. That's who we are and that's why we have a chance to win a championship, the AFC North, and go on from there."
In Week 12 when Jackson was too ill to play, Huntley led Baltimore to a 16-13 victory over the Chicago Bears, engineering a game-winning 72-yard drive in the final minutes. Against the Browns, Huntley almost led another comeback victory, rallying the Ravens after they fell behind 24-3 in the second quarter.
Huntley's last chance came after the Ravens recovered Justin Tucker's onside kick, giving Baltimore the ball at their own 41-yard line with 1:15 left and two timeouts. A couple first downs by the Ravens would have given Tucker a chance to kick another game-winner.
However, Huntley was sacked on second down by Jadeveon Clowney, then after connecting with Mark Andrews for a 14-yard gain on third down, the Ravens had 4th-and-6 and needed a first down to stay alive. The Browns called a zero blitz that forced Huntley to get rid of the ball quickly, and he threw a short slant pass to Rashod Bateman who was tightly covered by Browns cornerback Denzel Ward. Bateman was tackled well short of the first down and the Ravens were finally finished.
On his last pass, Huntley said he had no choice but to throw quickly.
"It was just a free rusher, I went to my hot read," Huntley said. "It just happened that he made a great play."
While Huntley's performance had highs and lows, he found his rhythm as the game progressed, despite being confronted by a relentless Cleveland pass rush led by All-Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett. In the second quarter, Garrett made a play that defensive stars make, knocking the ball away from Huntley as he was about to throw, then scooping up the fumble and returning it 15 yards for a touchdown that put the Browns up 24-3.
Then with the Ravens trailing 24-6 early in the third quarter, Huntley made another turnover that likely cost Baltimore at least three points. With the Ravens already in field goal range, Huntley scrambled and had the ball knocked away by defensive end Takkarist McKinley and recovered by linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
At that point, Huntley did some talking to himself.
"After that, I was just very locked in," Huntley said. "I just knew I couldn't make mistakes or I wasn't going to give the team the best chance to win. I had to lock in even more."
Huntley's play picked up, and so did Baltimore's offense. On Baltimore's two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, Huntley completed two deep passes to Bateman – one for 36 yards and one for 30 yards. Bateman had superb catches, but the passes were also beautifully thrown by Huntley.
While the Browns sacked Huntley three times, he used his mobility to escape more potential sacks. Garrett came away impressed.
"The way he looked, he might have been faster than Lamar," Garrett said. "The guy was playing pretty well. He looked like he was not starting his second game of the season."
Called "Snoop" by his teammates, Huntley has impressed them from the day he arrived as an undrafted free agent last year. He made the practice squad as a rookie, then won the backup job this year during training camp. Both Andrews (11 catches, 115 yards) and Bateman (seven catches, 103 yards) had 100-yard days, and the Ravens were a team that entered the game struggling offensively. In the second half, it was clear they were feeding off Huntley's energy, just as they often feed off Jackson's.
"He was slicing and dicing man," Andrews said. "Obviously we wish we would've won this game. But for 'Snoop' and this offense and this team, we fought to the very end. There wasn't a second that we were out there that we didn't believe we were going to come back. That's rare for a team when you're in situations like that."
If Huntley has to play more, the Ravens have no doubt he will be ready. That's what every team wants from its backup quarterback, and Huntley's presence is a positive for the Ravens with Jackson's status uncertain.
"The guys are confident in Tyler," Harbaugh said. "He has proven himself now in two different games. If we weren't confident in him, he would not be on this team. We believe in our players and I think you saw that today."