Sports

Lamar Jackson Puts Ravens AFC Driver’s Seat

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The Baltimore Ravens are a far better offensive team than they were last season, especially in the second half. They showed it in a thrilling 37-31 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Rams. The Ravens needed a special teams play, and some questionable officiating, for a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown to seal their 10th win this season, making them the first AFC team to reach that total.

Lamar Jackson was great with 313 yards passing and three touchdowns. He was also the Ravens’ leading rusher with 70 yards. As well as their offense played in Week 14, the Rams kept pace with them all afternoon. Until the final touchdown, the Rams held the largest lead of the game at 20-14 and never trailed by more than four points until the game ended.

It was a Matthew Stafford-led drive with a minute left on the clock that pushed the game into overtime. However, he only had to get his team into field goal range. The drive prior, Jackson led Baltimore on a 13-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown and a two-point conversion to take a 31-28 lead.

Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken decided to ride Jackson’s arm. The 2019 MVP put the ball wherever he wanted, completing eight passes to five different players. He relied on Zay Flowers the most who was the top pass catcher on that drive with three. One of those was a 21-yard touchdown on 3rd and 11 with just over a minute remaining in the game. Flowers also caught the pass on the successful two-point conversion.

Coming out of the two-minute warning commercial break, the Fox broadcast crew informed viewers that the Ravens had the worst point-differential in the league in the final two minutes of a game this season. Last season, Baltimore ranked 23rd in second-half points per game. Whether Monken or Greg Roman have called the plays, the offense has been too tight late in games.

Several Ravens’ wins have been closer than necessary this season because they have been too conservative with playcalling. They would be standing all alone atop the AFC, if they had not lost to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3 when they ran the ball over and over again in the fourth quarter.

Jackson is going to have to let the ball fly frequently late in games if the Ravens want to compete for a championship. They brought in a new offensive coordinator, drafted Flowers, and signed Odell Beckham Jr. to juice up their passing attack.

Flowers has been the Ravens’ best pass catcher this season. While he sealed the game, he would not have gotten the opportunity to do so without a great performance by Beckham. The veteran led the team in receiving with four catches for 97 yards and a touchdown — his second-best performance of the season. One his biggest catches was an inbreaking route on that fourth-quarter drive.

The Ravens did go three and out on their only overtime possession, so the offense is far from perfect. Their defense tightened up at the right time, and they escaped with a massive special teams play.

Still, the Ravens let Jackson be the primary playmaker on a drive that they desperately needed, and rewarded his coaches. That is the player he needs to be every week. The receiving corps was improved so he could have moments like Week 14 against the Rams.

If the Ravens want to win big, the recipe is to put the ball in Jackson’s hands and live with the results.



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