The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson squeaked out a Week 14 victory against the Cleveland Browns in a 47-42 game of the year-like thriller. Jackson had debatably his best game all season, completing 11 of 17 passes for 163 passing yards and rushing for 124 yards and three total touchdowns. The performance was reminiscent of the type of play that made Jackson the 2019 unanimous MVP. Jackson was the most dynamic player on either team all night and put on a performance that could go down in NFL history.
While Jackson’s raw numbers are great, the fashion in which he recorded them was even more special. Throughout his career, Jackson has had many narratives debated about his play as an NFL quarterback. He is the most athletic player to ever play the quarterback position so naturally, and he’s an unusual player to evaluate. However, he had a historically impactful night in front of a national audience in a must-game win on Monday Night Football.
Jackson’s performance against the Browns could’ve been the climax in a dramatic movie. The Ravens have their back against the wall right now when it comes to making the AFC playoffs, and the incredible game by Jackson could not have come in a bigger sport. If the Ravens are to pull off a miracle run to the playoffs and potentially more, Jackson’s effort could go down in Ravens history as one of the biggest wins of his career.
Lamar Jackson Win vs Cleveland Browns in Week 14 Could Be Historic
While the Ravens have been plagued by injuries for a lot of the year, watching them potentially go down to zero quarterbacks was a ripple no one could’ve predicted. Injuries are a part of NFL football but the Ravens were potentially relying on slot receiver Willie Snead to enter a must-win game and drive his team to a win. With the Ravens in third and two from the Browns 41-yard line, back up quarterback Trace McSorley took a sack for a loss of three yards. McSorely came up injured on the play and was questionable to return with the Ravens down 35-34.
After exiting the game with cramps earlier in the quarter, Jackson came running out onto the Ravens sideline during the most crucial play of the game. His return to the field could have been something out of Wrestlemania. “It was like a scene out of a movie…as soon as (McSorley) went down you could see Lamar trotting back onto the field,” Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said in his post-game interview. The Ravens former-MVP and most valuable player of the night was making a triumphant return after potentially leaving the most crucial game of his career to this point.
On fourth and five, Jackson took the snap, flushed out of the pocket to the right, and was potentially looking to run. As the Cleveland defense drew down on him, Jackson on the run found Brown behind the Browns secondary for a 44-yard touchdown completion putting the Ravens up 42-35.
LAMAR CLUTCH TD TO HOLLYWOOD BROWN 😱
Ravens take the late lead
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 15, 2020
The Browns would score on the ensuing drive, setting Jackson up with another chance to find the game-winning points with 1:02 worth of clock left. Jackson then completed four straight passes, including back-to-back 14-yard throws to Mark Andrews, to get the Ravens down to the Browns 37-yard line with seven seconds left. With the clock running down to two seconds, Justin Tucker delivered a 55-yard field goal to seal the game for Baltimore. It was the type of win the Ravens have been longing for all-season and it could not have come in a bigger spot.
Potentially Banishing False Narratives
There have been a lot of narratives that have surrounded Jackson throughout his 34 career NFL starts. He is one of a kind and thus, dissecting him is a little tricky. There are currently a number of storylines that continually follow him around it seems in every game.
Narrative #1 – Jackson Cannot Win In Big Spots
Despite Jackson going 3-0 in prime time games during the 2019 regular season, there is a narrative throughout the media that Jackson flails in important games. This could be because of his 0-2 record in playoff games but many members of the media expanded that into the regular season following the Ravens Week 8 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson finished the game with 273 yards of total offense and two touchdowns but faced negative backlash because of his four turnovers. His first interception of the game gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead less than one minute into the contest and his fumble with two minutes left in the fourth quarter was perhaps on his team’s most important play of the game.
The Ravens then dropped two of their next three games with Jackson at the helm to the Tennessee Titans, the team that knocked them out of the 2019 playoffs, and the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Jackson played relatively well in both games but still failed to collect the win.
Lamar Jackson is 1-4 in 5 games vs winning teams since the 2019 postseason with 35 Total QBR and 5 Pass TD and 5 INT.
He was 6-1 vs winning teams during 2019 regular season with a NFL-best 81 Total QBR, adding 14 Pass TD ant 1 Int. pic.twitter.com/aOdMvOqtwy
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 14, 2020
During Monday’s game, Jackson was the focal point of the Ravens offense and was the sole reason they won the game. Kevin Stefanski‘s offense put up a season-high 42 points against Don Martindale‘s defense but still, Jackson found a way to close out the game. He accounted for 287 of Baltimore’s 385 yards of total offense and made clutch throws and runs during every important juncture in the game. He ran for an average of 10.76 yards per carry and made a huge fourth and five completion to Marquise Brown to pull the Ravens ahead when they wee trailing 35-34.
Narrative #2 – Jackson Cannot Play From Behind
Throughout the Greg Roman era, the Ravens have been dubbed a team that cannot play from behind. Baltimore has not had to play much from behind during Roman and Jackson’s tenure, but they had dropped six straight games going into half prior to their Week 9 win against the Indianapolis Colts this season. The win over the Colts broke a 20-game-long losing streak held by the Ravens when trailing at the half — the longest active streak of that sort in the NFL.
While the 24-10 win for the Ravens helped divert the narrative, Baltimore dropping their following game to the Patriots watered down the importance of the Colts win. New England was a heavy underdog against the Ravens and the weather conditions were horrible but Baltimore still fell short in front of the Sunday Night football audience. Jackson and the Ravens offense went into the half down 13-10 and managed just seven points the rest of the game, eventually dropping the matchup 23-17.
Lamar Jackson just earned his 1st career win after trailing at halftime (previously 0-6, incl. playoffs)
It's the Ravens' 1st win after trailing at the half since Wk 10, 2016, ending a streak of 20 straight losses (incl. playoffs) – that was the longest active streak in the NFL
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 8, 2020
The Ravens did not trail at the half against the Browns but Jackson and his team were trailing or tied during four separate occasions and the Ravens quarterback continued to help his team claw back into the lead. It started with the Ravens down 7-0 on the Browns’ first drive of the game and culminated with the two teams tied 42-42 with under two minutes remaining in the game. There was never a point in which the Ravens were comfortably ahead. Baltimore was up by two scores for only 9:26 the entire game. The win against the Browns will also go down on the stat sheet as the second fourth-quarter comeback of Jackson’s career. Jackson’s QBR of 99.5 against the Browns was tied for the eighth-highest single-game mark all-time.
When analyzing a quarterback like Jackson, it’s easy to attach conventional narratives to him because he himself is so unconventional. The storylines that follow him have some validity but his performance against the Browns showed that it isn’t particularly easy to label him with traditional narratives. Jackson is still just 23 years old and is continuing to improve as an overall player in new ways.
Jackson Provided The Spark The Ravens Need
Outside of Mayfield’s comments, many of the game’s participants had a lot to say about the crazy ending. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was also in awe of the events that took place leading up to the dramatic finish. “If you wrote a movie about this, people wouldn’t believe it. They’d say it never happened” he said. “Reality is stranger than fiction. It’s crazy.” Andrews also saw the aura that Jackson brought to his team when he made his return from the locker room. “It’s fourth and six and you see our leader come back on the field. We were all just ecstatic” the Ravens leading pass catcher said.
Andrews: "It's 4th-and-6 and you see our leader come back on the field. We were all just ecstatic. People were making plays left and right."
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) December 15, 2020
The win vaults the Ravens above the Las Vegas Raiders for the eighth spot in the AFC playoff race. Baltimore still remains one game out but has a schedule that may allow them to finish out the year without another loss. After dropping their Week 12 game against the Steelers, the Ravens path to the playoffs was only assured if they were to win out during their last five games. The Miami Dolphins currently hold the final wild-card spot and the seventh seed in the AFC at 8-5. They hold the tiebreaker between the teams on in-conference record. Miami sits at 5-4 while Baltimore sits at 5-5.
The Ravens’ three remaining games are each very winnable. Their remaining three opponents have a total of eight wins combined and have each beaten just one team with a record above .500. There is also a chance that all three could be playing with their backup quarterbacks against the Ravens.
Beating the Browns in Cleveland was easily the toughest game Baltimore was going to play over their final five weeks and it could be the game that propels them back to looking like a Super Bowl contender. Jackson had the Ravens offense clicking on all cylinders and is getting hot at the right time. If the entire Ravens team can continue to follow Jackson’s lead, they should have a chance at a deep playoff run come January.
Jackson’s Most Significant Win of His Young Career
In a game in which his defense could not bail him out, Jackson did everything right. The win was dramatic, electric, jaw-dropping, and above all else inspiring. Jackson has had a number of big wins in front of the national audience but none like the won he recorded this past Monday. When his team looked down and out, he brought them back up and did everything in his power to keep the Ravens playoff dreams alive.
There were plenty of little things the Ravens did wrong in the game that will get lost in history solely because Jackson was so brilliant. This included: multiple Ravens slipping on the turf all night, Brown dropping three passes, forcing three fumbles and recovering none, and a broken up two-point conversion attempt that landed right in the hands of Donovan Peoples-Jones. Luck was not on the Ravens’ side but Jackson created his own luck with a stellar performance.
Jackson truly announced himself to the NFL with his Week 16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and became a superstar with his 2019 Week 9 win over the Patriots. However, neither of those wins had the dramatics of his win against the Browns. This win could go down as the 2020 NFL game of the year and he came out victorious in a way the Ravens and the NFL had never seen before. When looking back at Jackson’s career in 20 years, this game could be the game that fully changed the way the NFL looked at the Ravens quarterback as a dual-threat quarterback with no-ceiling or limitations to his greatness.