Can anyone stop Lamar Jackson?

The Ravens’ quarterback is taking the NFL by storm

Texans+defenders+are+left+in+the+dust+in+a+futile+attempt+to+tackle+Lamar+Jackson.

Texans defenders are left in the dust in a futile attempt to tackle Lamar Jackson.

Bennett Carollo, Sports Editor

I’ll admit it. I had my doubts. It was January 6th, the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. The Los Angeles Chargers came into Baltimore to take on the Ravens. Leading the Ravens offense was, of course, Lamar Jackson, who had taken over for veteran Joe Flacco midseason. Jackson had already had a good deal of success in 2018. However, few people were sold on his abilities and the sustainability of the style of offense that he commands. The most common argument against Jackson was that he was a “running back” and was only dangerous with his legs and not with his arm. For much of the Chargers game, these critics appeared to be right. Los Angeles seemed to have crafted a perfect game plan to counter Jackson and his over-reliability on taking off out of the pocket. Simply put, the Ravens offense was a mess. They were shut out in the first half and came into the fourth quarter trailing 12-3. The Baltimore fans grew restless, as they booed coach John Harbaugh for sticking with Jackson and not giving Flacco a shot to turn the game around with his more traditional play style. With the Chargers sitting on a big lead, the Ravens’ offense did manage bring the final score to 23-17. Nonetheless, myself and many others assumed that this was the end for Jackson and this cute but not practical experiment from the Ravens. Boy, was I wrong.

Even in the early going of the 2019 season, I was skeptical of Lamar Jackson. The Ravens got off to a modest 2-2 start, and it looked as if they would be a mediocre team. However, they started to climb the standings with three straight wins that brought them to 5-2 heading into a highly anticipated matchup with the New England Patriots, who boast the top defense in the NFL. By this point, Jackson had been producing highlight reel plays weekly and his rise to fame was in full force. Nonetheless, I wasn’t a believer just yet. I still couldn’t shake the image of last year’s Wild Card game from my mind and I was confident that Bill Belichick would have a masterful defensive plan that would bring Lamar back down to earth. I was wrong again. The Ravens picked up a signature win, defeating the Patriots 37-20. At that point, I was ready to admit that Lamar was good, but the MVP hype seemed like a bit much. That was until Monday Night Football in Los Angeles on November 25th.

That MNF game against the Rams was the first time I’ve watched Lamar Jackson play this season, and to say that I was impressed would be an understatement. Jackson and the Ravens offense were nothing short of perfect. All six of the drives led by Lamar resulted in touchdowns. He was dazzling and elusive when running with the ball, as expected, but it was what he did throwing the ball that now has the Ravens as my Super Bowl favorite and Jackson as my MVP pick. The Rams’ defense was completely at a loss. Baltimore’s offensive line did a remarkable job of clearing lanes for both Lamar and running back Mark Ingram to do damage on the ground and each of Jackson’s passes was sharp and accurate. His final stat line looked like something out of a video game. 15/20 for 169 yards and five passing touchdowns to go along with 95 yards on the ground.

This past week, the Ravens passed another test by beating one of the NFC’s top teams, the 49ers, 20-17 in a game many called a potential Super Bowl preview. Their win streak is now at eight games and they have overtaken the Patriots for the top seed in the AFC. Lamar also continues to add on to his impressive MVP resume. He has thrown for 25 touchdowns and leads the NFL in QBR with a rating of 81.6. In the running game, he has another seven TDs and 977 total yards, far and away the most for any QB and is on pace to shatter Michael Vick’s record of 1,039 yards. As for the eye test, the countless highlights of Lamar making defenses look silly speak for themselves. There’s still a long way to go and the playoffs are a whole different animal, but right now it doesn’t look like anything can stop Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.