Plenty of starting NFL quarterbacks don't look as comfortable as Tyler Huntley looked Sunday.
The Ravens suffered a gut-wrenching 31-30 loss to the Green Bay Packers, but Baltimore's backup quarterback had another excellent dual-threat performance as a passer (28 for 40, 215 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) and a runner (13 carries, 73 yards, two touchdowns).
Watching Huntley calmly march the offense down the field on Baltimore's final 49-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 8-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left that pulled the Ravens to within one point, was like watching a veteran quarterback at work. He was poised, accurate, and made decisions quickly. He looked nothing like a young quarterback making just his second NFL start.
Huntley is playing with decisiveness and making things happen, and it showed on his final 8-yard touchdown run when he reacted quickly once he saw a path to the end zone.
Huntley's presence is a huge plus for the Ravens (8-6) as they fight for a playoff berth with just three games left in the regular season. Lamar Jackson (ankle) didn't play Sunday, and his status for Week 16 is uncertain when the Ravens visit the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6), a game that will have huge implications in the AFC North.
Jackson may be back under center against Cincinnati, but if Huntley gets the call, the Ravens are certain they have a quarterback they can win with.
"You have to have two quarterbacks that can win for you," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Tyler is playing that kind of football. He played really well. I thought today, he took another step forward, just in terms of handling himself, operating on time in rhythm, taking off and running at the right time, accurate throws, all of those things. He took a big step. There's a lot to be said for experience. Repetition really makes a big difference, and he's a quick learner."
Unfortunately, Huntley will learn from a heartbreaking defeat. The Ravens were denied an emotional victory when their two-point conversion attempt failed following Huntley's second touchdown run. Huntley rolled to his right looking for tight end Mark Andrews, but Green Bay safety Darnell Savage closed quickly on Andrews and Huntley's pass whizzed incomplete into the end zone.
Huntley agreed with Head Coach John Harbaugh's decision to go for two points, and thought he could fit the pass to Andrews through a tight window.
"He had space for a moment," a disappointed Huntley said. "They made a good play right there. I'll be able to explain more when I watch the film."
When the Ravens and their opponents study the film, they will continue to be impressed by Huntley. After an entire week of practice with the first team, Huntley was in rhythm from the opening drive, and moved the ball consistently against a solid Green Bay offense.
Andrews (10 catches, 136 yards, two touchdowns) had a huge day and became the first tight end in franchise history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. The same chemistry that Andrews enjoys with Jackson was on display with Huntley, and Andrews felt a similar vibe.
"He's a special player," Andrews said. "I think everybody on the field feels a connection with him. He puts the ball where it needs to be, his eyes are great. Being behind a guy like Lamar, you learn a ton, and he's been able to absorb all these different things. I think he's going to be a superstar in this league for a long, long time."
Jackson is the most elusive running quarterback the league has ever seen, but Huntley also has exceptional mobility, and the ability to keep his eyes downfield as he's moving. On his first touchdown pass to Andrews, Huntley rolled to his right to escape Green Bay's rush, allowing Andrews more time to get open for a spectacular catch.
On his 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, Huntley made the Packers pay for not accounting for his ability to escape the pocket. It was a clutch fourth-and-3 play that pulled the Ravens closer when they were trailing, 31-17.
Huntley never flinched when the Ravens were down by 14 points, fully confident he could lead a comeback. His teammates also had confidence in him, and his calm demeanor for a young quarterback is resonating in the huddle.
"Really poised, man," running back Latavius Murray said. "We've got a ton of confidence in him. I love the way he plays, so when you've got two guys at that position who you know you can rely on, you know you've always got one hell of a chance to go out there and score points and not miss a beat on offense. We like our chances every time we go into a game. 'Snoop' [Huntley] was just doing what he does."
Huntley knew there was a good chance he would start this week and took advantage of having a full week of practice with the starting unit. He said Jackson was giving him advice from the bench, pointing out things he saw, but Huntley looks totally comfortable running the show.
If he plays next weekend against Cincinnati, nobody will be asking Huntley if he feels ready. That question has been answered.
"I can feel the guys around me feeling more confident in me," Huntley said. "I think they've got a lot more confidence in me than I've got in myself. It's a good thing, though."