On Sunday, the Ravens traveled to Seattle to face their toughest opponent of the season as substantial underdogs. The Seahawks entered the game with a single loss, placed inside the top 5 of most power rankings. They were at home, where they’ve put together one of the best records in the NFL since Russell Wilson was drafted in 2012. Wilson, who was (and may still be) the frontrunner for MVP, led the league in touchdowns without committing a turnover, and the Ravens’ defense had been porous for the majority of the season.
The chips were all in Seattle’s favor. But in the biggest game of the season, the Ravens showed they were the best team on the field.
Lamar Jackson’s stat line may not look pretty, but if you watched this game you’d know he was the best player on either team. In slippery conditions where he never truly seemed to fully get his footing, Jackson still found ways to regularly evade defenders and pick up huge chunks of yards with his feet. He was let down by at least 6 drops on the day, but was putting passes on the money and looked like he was playing a different level of football than everyone else. Every week I come away amazed at something Jackson pulled off; this game had a handful of those moments.
On the other side of the ball, the defense looked stout. Russell Wilson pulled off a few miracle plays in the first half, a feat he accomplishes seemingly every week, but he was harassed and contained for the majority of the game. Late in the 2nd quarter up 10-6 he was forced into his first turnover of the season, a 67 yard pick-six by Marcus Peters, who made his impact in his first week on the team. From there, Wilson would tie the game up at 13 going into the half, but Seattle never had a lead again. Marlon Humphrey scored a 2nd touchdown for the defense and Russell Wilson looked mortal for the first time all season. The 2nd half was all Baltimore en route to a statement 16-30 victory.
I wanted that Peters play to be the BreakPoint play. It was essentially a 10 point swing in the Ravens favor and did change the game big time. That said, the game was still tied late in the 3rd, and the familiar sight of a long drive stalling out near the goal line looked like it would spell disaster in the 4th quarter. The defense was playing great, but going up 16-13 heading into the 4th against the league’s MVP in his stadium doesn’t exactly feel very comforting.
Then, the most important sequence of the game happened. John Harbaugh sent the field goal unit out to take the lead, then called time out and let the offense go for it on 4th and 2. Lamar Jackson not only picked up the 1st, but fought for the extra yards and took the ball into the endzone. It was one of the most confidence instilling moments in his young career.
Prior to this, Lamar led the offense downfield on a long drive that looked unstoppable at times. But a great play by the linebacker forced a dropped touchdown on 1st down by Mark Andrews, who would then drop an easy, open reception on 2nd. Crowd noise forced a delay of game to back the Ravens up to a 3rd and 15 and the frustration boiled over for Lamar, who looked incredibly animated on the field. On 3rd and long, he kept the ball himself, rushing for 13 and nearly picking up the 1st. Multiple times this year we’ve seen Jackson funnel anger/frustration/disappointment into playing better; but the 2 runs that took us from stalling out and settling for 3 into finding the endzone instead were the most impressive examples yet.
The 4th down play was straight-up power on power. The Ravens come out with no receivers, multiple tight ends, and a full back, to which the Seahawks counter with 8 men in the box with the 2 corners playing as close as possible. Everyone knows this is a run, but there’s nothing Seattle can do about it.
This is a beautiful play design that has Patrick Ricard in motion pre-play before sealing the edge at the top of the screen. Hayden Hurst is lined up as an H-back and helps set the opening for Lamar to cut up the middle. The rest of the offensive line simply mauls the entire defensive line, which gives Jackson just enough space to work his magic. This is exactly how the play was drawn up, it was executed to perfection.
That said, this play can’t happen, and wouldn’t be called quite frankly, without the level of talent Lamar Jackson possesses. On this play, he shows great vision as a ball carrier and elite level agility. The slowed-down replay may make it look easy, but Jackson is able to find the hole and accelerate through it at full speed within a fraction of a second. He plants his right leg and bursts to top speed quicker than a Tesla Roadster, completely changing the game in the Ravens’ favor.
That combination of quickness, agility, acceleration, and straight-up top-end speed is something only the most elite running backs in NFL history possess, and is unlike anything the quarterback position has ever seen.
Jackson would go on to kill the entire 4th quarter for the 2nd straight week, putting together an 8+ minute drive and extending the lead to 10 while essentially putting the game away. For good measure, DK Metcalf fumbled untouched for one of the most hilarious defensive touchdowns in recent memory, which helped the Ravens move to 5-2 in impressive fashion.
Up next for the Ravens is the bye week, followed by the 7-0 New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. For the next 2 weeks, expect the hype levels to be unreal for the team and Lamar Jackson in particular. The New England game is one of the most compelling of the season, not only just for the Ravens, but for the entire 2019 NFL season. The Patriots are far and away favorites to win the Superbowl, and if the Ravens beat them the entire landscape of the league could change. With the way the defense played Sunday and the speed at which Lamar continues to develop, we truly have a shot against anyone in the league. We have an extra week to get healthy, maybe see the return of Jimmy Smith, Peanut, and Hollywood Brown, and gameplan for the biggest test of the season. The Ravens may just have the best chance to end the Patriots’ perfect season.
Lamar Jackson has been a human highlight reel, creating multiple jaw-dropping plays on a weekly basis. But the “HELL YEAH COACH, LETS GO FOR IT” sequence is one I won’t be forgetting any time soon. Don’t take him for granted Ravens fans, we’re watching a generational talent.