Week 17 of the NFL resulted in heartbreak, agony, and triumph for many teams battling for a playoff berth. When the dust cleared, three teams were able to do enough to clinch playoff spots, and three other teams had their seasons come to an end on their own home fields. One of those teams to clinch a spot is the Baltimore Ravens, led by rookie quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
Lamar Jackson was the fifth quarterback to be drafted in the most recent NFL draft. However, at the end of the season, he is the only rookie quarterback to make the playoffs. He finished with the best winning percentage out of any of the other rookie quarterbacks at 85.71%. Lamar is known best for his rushing ability, and their most recent win displayed his elusiveness.
The Ravens were in a “win and your in” scenario against the Cleveland Browns. Their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have dominated the AFC north division in recent years. Moreover, it looked as if they would dominate again this year. After week 10, The Steelers were coming off a huge victory over the Carolina Panthers, and held a commanding lead in the AFC North division with a 6-2-1 record. The Ravens were 4-5 and on the outside looking in, and had just a 4.9% chance of winning the division. Due to a collapse by the Steelers and the spark of Lamar Jackson for the Ravens, Baltimore (9-6) held a half game lead over the Steelers (8-6-1) with one game left to go in the regular season. Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens needed one more win to reach the post season for the first time since 2014. One more victory to win the AFC North for the first time since 2012.
The 7-7-1 Cleveland Browns were the only team that could prevent the Ravens from their goals. These are not the same Cleveland Browns that went 0-16 last year. They are now a talented team led by fellow rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. Mayfield, who broke the rookie record for touchdowns in a season with 27, looked to lead the Browns to their first winning season since 2007.
The Ravens started off the game well by springing out to a 20-7 lead at halftime. The Ravens three-headed rushing attack, which features Jackson and the running back tandem of Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon, was able to produce two touchdowns in the opening half. As the game continued, the Browns defense stiffened up. The Ravens rookie signal caller was faced with adversity as a result. However, Jackson showed poise on two key drives in the second half that led to two Justin Tucker field goals giving the Ravens a 26-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. Baker Mayfield fought valiantly to lead the Browns back by throwing two touchdown passes, but the Ravens’ top ranked defense was able to intercept a Mayfield pass on the Browns’ last possession. That play sealed the victory for the Ravens, and allowed them to overcome their recent history of choking in week 17 games.
Although Jackson had solid numbers through the air, he truly shined in the running game. He earned himself a QB rating of 81.8 by throwing for 179 yards. On the ground, Lamar churned out 90 yards on 20 carries and added 2 touchdowns from 25 yards and 8 yards out respectively. He was a major part of a Ravens rushing effort that amassed 296 yards. On a day where Baltimore needed their rookie to shine, Lamar “Action” Jackson answered the call.
Baltimore (10-6) will host the Los Angeles Chargers this upcoming weekend in the wildcard round of the playoffs. This game is a rematch of a week 16 contest where the Ravens handled the Chargers 22-10 at the Stubhub Center. What will be the narrative for Lamar Jackson’s rookie season? Will he go one and done? Or will the Ravens fly on to the divisional round of the post season? Let playoff football begin!