Ravens QB Lamar Jackson dazzles against Patriots: ‘This man is the MVP’

Tom Schad


Published 6: 53 AM EST Nov 4, 2019

BALTIMORE — Earl Thomas slipped the word in casually at first, describing the play of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson as “MVP-type.” 

Then he said the defense wanted to force turnovers Sunday night so it could get the ball back to the offense, and “let the MVP do his thing.”

Eventually, Thomas just put it plainly.

“This man,” Thomas said of Jackson, “is the MVP.”

There’s still half a season to play (and roughly three months to go) until the MVP award is distributed, and there’s no telling if the 22-year-old Jackson will ultimately be its recipient. But he has, at the very least, become a unique and devastating force in just his second NFL season. His performance in Baltimore’s 37-20 win over the previously-undefeated New England Patriots was just the most recent example.

In a matchup against the league’s top-ranked defense, Jackson posted a 107.7 passer rating and accounted for three touchdowns and no turnovers — with a juke, a waltz and plenty of swag along the way. Not that he wants to dwell on his own accolades, of course. Nor the fact that he bamboozled Bill Belichick’s defense early in the first half and managed to adapt to its schematic trickery in the second. Nor the “M-V-P” chants that echoed across M&T Bank Stadium in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got a lot of season left to play,” Jackson said. “I don’t really care about that. I appreciate it, but like I said before, I want something better than that.”

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The MVP race is bound to be crowded through the remainder of the season, with Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey and Aaron Rodgers among those also in the mix.

But Jackson’s unique case is clear: No player in NFL history has eclipsed 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season. The Louisville product is on track to smash both marks. 

“That’s our MVP, and that’s the league MVP,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “No doubt about it.”

“Absolutely, man,” added right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. “(It’s just) everything that he does.”

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Jackson bolstered his MVP case Sunday by thriving in primetime, against arguably his toughest opponent yet.

The Patriots are well-known for throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at opposing quarterbacks, especially those who are relatively new to the league. Entering Sunday’s game, they had won 21 consecutive games against first- or second-year QBs — the longest such streak in NFL history — and smothered those from the 2018 draft class, holding that group to one touchdown and 10 interceptions in five games prior to Sunday.

Then, they faced Jackson.

In his first matchup against a Belichick defense, Jackson fused poise with creativity. On a 3rd-and-5 in the third quarter, for example, the Patriots lined up in a “Cover Zero” look — the same defensive alignment that recently had New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold “seeing ghosts.” Jackson identified the coverage, danced past the rush and floated a pass to the outstretched arms of Andrews for an 18-yard gain.

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Baltimore went on to cap that 14-play, 81-yard drive with a touchdown to push its lead to double digits.

“He’s got an amazing ability to take a lot of factors, a lot of things — play clock, play call, personnel, formation, defense that presents, whatever changes that have to be made — and just process all of that in that kind of a moment,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. 

“(That’s) what makes the position of quarterback so difficult. That’s why Tom Brady is so good at it, too. Lamar does it his way, but Lamar does it as well as anybody. He did a great job tonight, and the whole World saw it.”

Jackson completed 17 of 23 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown while also rushing for 61 yards and two touchdowns, but traditional quarterback stats belie the massive impact he had on the game.

Jackson led the Ravens on four scoring drives of 11 or more plays, which drained a combined 29 minutes, 51 seconds off the clock. He helped Baltimore convert 50% of its third downs, plus a key fourth down in the second half near midfield. He influenced the Patriots’ defense in subtle ways even when he didn’t have the ball, contributing to open running lanes simply because he was on the field.

“If you’re trying to take our QB away, there are some eyes on him that aren’t on me,” said running back Mark Ingram, who racked up 115 yards on 15 carries. “He continues to pull people out on his fakes, and I think that goes hand in hand.”

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So does all that mean Jackson is worthy of the MVP hype? Ask his teammates and they’ll tell you the race is already over. Their answers will all include some variation of the phrase “he’s special,” though Andrews prefers to phrase it more simply.

“He makes grown men that are really good at football, the best at what they do, look at times not as good as they are,” Andrews told USA TODAY Sports. “What you (saw) tonight is what you get.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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