The Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts played out a thrilling Monday Night Football matchup that resulted in the Ravens edging past the Colts 31-25 in a nail-biting comeback win in overtime. The 19-point 2nd half comeback ties the 3rd largest comeback in Ravens history and was made possible by a career night for quarterback Lamar Jackson as the 4th year signal-caller accumulated a staggering 504 yards against the Colts defense, including a Ravens franchise record 442 passing yards and a team-high 62 yards on the ground.
With his latest heroics, Jackson has firmly cemented himself in the NFL’s MVP conversation as he continues to put an injury-ridden Ravens team on his back, willing them to 4 straight victories and has The Flock in sole possession of 1st place in a competitive AFC North division.
It goes without saying that the Ravens simply would not be in the same position at this point in the season if Lamar Jackson wasn’t under center. Jackson’s versatility as a play-maker and overall value to his team is highlighted by the fact that Jackson is currently 5th in the NFL in passing yards and 8th in the NFL in rushing. Further, per baltimoreravens.com, as a team, the Ravens have gained 2,203 total yards of offense through the first 5 weeks with Jackson accounting for 1,860 of those yards. In turn, that’s nearly 85% of the Ravens yards that have come from the arm or legs of former MVP Lamar Jackson. To top off the record-setting season Baltimore’s no. 8 has had thus far, Jackson’s current total yards of 1,860 is better than that of 18 NFL teams. If that’s not value, I’m not sure what is.
Baltimore’s lackluster rushing attack presents Jackson with the challenge of generating an offensive spark with his arm as opposed to his legs, which Jackson has embraced head on. Through 5 games in 2021, Jackson is averaging 303.8 yards per game, boasts a completion percent of 67 and has racked up 8 touchdowns compared to 3 interceptions thus far. While Jackson can still improve on his ball security, Jackson’s passing numbers through the first month or so of the season have increased, all without his 3 starting running backs, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill, as well as rookie 1st round receiver Rashod Bateman who all suffered injuries before the season started.
In addition to Jackson’s improved stats, a simple eye-test will conclude that the Ravens QB looks more comfortable throwing from the pocket when given time to pick out his receivers. When Jackson’s pocket collapses and he’s forced to scramble outside the tackle box, he has shown a commitment to keeping his eyes downfield and getting his receivers involved rather than opting to put his head down and pick up first downs with his legs, potentially putting himself in harm’s way.
Granted, Jackson has largely done an excellent job leading the Ravens ground game while also keeping himself healthy in the process. Even so, Ravens fans should rejoice in Jackson’s development as a down field passer, particularly outside the numbers. This is not to say Jackson shouldn’t use his legs as his abilities as a runner in the open field make him the most electrifying player in the league, but his overall maturity as a dual-threat QB in the NFL should be encouraged and celebrated as that will prolong his career and lead to more Ravens victories.
While all the hype and praise for Jackson is warranted, it is a cold, hard fact that the Ravens would not have beaten the Colts without a full team performance in the 2nd half and OT with all three units, offense, defense, as well as special teams making meaningful contributions that proved crucial in the dramatic comeback win. In his postgame speech to his team, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh highlighted the team performance the Ravens put in to come back to beat the Colts, “We don’t win the game without every one of these plays being made.”
This sentiment from coach Harbaugh is dead on and empowers each player in the Ravens locker room to make the plays necessary to taste victory. Monday night, Jackson was certainly the engine that made the wheels turn and is the reason why Baltimore can never be counted out of any game, even down 19 points deep into the 2nd half. However, Ravens pass-catchers, most notably, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, stepped up in the 2nd half regularly making plays to get the Ravens back within striking distance of the Colts. The former caught Jackson’s pass midway through OT to seal the Ravens dramatic win.
Further, while Colts QB Carson Wentz generally played well and Indy’s playmakers such as running back Jonathan Taylor and receiver Michael Pittman Jr. continuously gashed the Ravens defense, Baltimore made enough plays on the defensive side of the ball in the 4th quarter to limit the Colts to field goal opportunities rather than touchdowns, which the Colts struggled to convert. Notably, with about 4-and-a-half minutes left in regulation, Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell blocked a field goal, which would’ve most likely put the game out of reach for Baltimore, but instead propelled them to tie the game at 25-a-piece with under a minute left in the game and eventually going on to win it in OT.
In conclusion, wrapping up a heart-pounding Ravens victory, some, if not the majority of the credit for the win should be placed on Jackson’s broad shoulders as he was the spark plug inspiring the teams’ triumph over the Colts. Nevertheless, Jackson would not have had the opportunity to wave the magic wand that is his right arm without the rest of his team stepping up to make game-changing plays when it mattered most. Another John Harbaugh soundbite that perfectly encapsulates the Ravens team identity is when, after the teams’ dramatic win over the Chiefs on Sept. 19th, “It’s not perfect. It’s not pretty. But it’s us.”
If the Ravens are going to return the playoffs this year and make a deep run, they will most likely have to scratch and claw their way to almost every victory they’re going to earn.
And that’s just how The Flock likes it.