Then he spent much of the fourth in the locker room – with many in the audience watching on television and online wondering (and joking) if he was out because of what was running through him.
Jackson said it wasn’t what everyone thought, he was actually getting IVs to deal with cramps. That and some stretching.
“I didn’t pull a Paul Pierce,” Jackson said. “I was cramping.”
Lamar out there pulling a Paul Pierce 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/YEJxIqKySC
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) December 15, 2020
Pierce is the Boston Celtics great who has admitted temporarily faking an injury, including famously riding in a wheelchair, in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals because “I just had to go to the bathroom" before returning to the game and being the hero.
The cramping story is more likely than the bathroom one. And it makes sense, although in this game, this Monday night of entertainment between Lamar’s Ravens and Baker Mayfield’s Browns, everything made sense because nothing made sense.
After all, the reigning MVP of the NFL was actually asked postgame about his bathroom schedule. Seriously.
“Reality is stranger than fiction,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Well, here was Baltimore’s reality at the two-minute warning Monday.
It trailed Cleveland, 35-34. A loss would decimate the Ravens’ already shaky playoff chances. Jackson was in the locker room doing whatever. His backup, Trace McSorley, was on the ground with a knee injury. The down and distance was fourth-and-5.
That is about as dire a situation as a team can get.
“We’re like, ‘OK, what’s going to happen?’” running back J.K. Dobbins said.
Lamar the Star is what happened.
“I’m catching attitude because it’s not going like we wanted it,” Jackson said of watching the game while stretching in the locker room. “[I decided], ‘I’ve got to go out there.’”
So right on cue, cramps apparently taken care of, he came jogging out. This was a terrible situation to return to, but then again, this is Lamar Jackson.
He took the snap, dropped back to pass, avoided a blitz, got out of the pocket and looked like he’d easily gallop for a first down.
Only instead of running, he pulled up and hit an open Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (who’d spent most of the night dropping passes) for a 44-yard, go-ahead touchdown. Dobbins then survived a violent collision to convert the two-point play and give Baltimore a 42-35 lead.
“Like a movie,” Dobbins said.
Yes, except Cleveland is having its own storybook season going. The Browns entered the game 9-3 with a chance to catch Pittsburgh (11-2) and win their first division championship since 1989. Cleveland used to collapse in games like these. Not anymore.
“This team fights,” Mayfield said.
Baker and Co. didn’t blink. Four plays, 75 yards and 47 seconds later and the Browns had tied it up at 42 when Kareem Hunt scored the game’s 12th touchdown.
Cleveland’s problem? It scored so quickly that it left Jackson with 1:04 and one timeout. He quickly completed four consecutive passes for 38 yards and then watched the Ravens’ ultra-clutch Justin Tucker drill a 55-yard field goal with 0:02 to give the Ravens a 45-42 lead.
That should have been it, but of course it couldn’t be it. Not in this game.
Cleveland took over at its own 25-yard line and ran a desperation play that consisted of one completed pass, two laterals and four fumbles (all recovered by the Browns). Each exchange kept pushing them backward until Jarvis Landry was finally shoved out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Final score, Baltimore 47, Cleveland 42, the most combined points in the NFL this season.
Not only did the Ravens score five points in two seconds of game action (you don’t see that every day), and an NFL game ended with a safety (you haven’t seen that since 2016) but those final senseless two points mattered to many since the most common gambling spreads were either Ravens -3 or -3.5 (you can see those kinds of bad beats every week on Scott Van Pelt’s “SportsCenter” segments).
If there are a few extra presents under the tree in Maryland (and a few less in Ohio), then you know why.
This doesn’t even factor in the innumerable fantasy matchups that swung while 20 combined points were scored ... in the final 1:51 of the game.
In real life, Baltimore is 8-5 and very much back in the playoff chase. It survived COVID-19 outbreaks, crazy schedules (including a Wednesday afternoon game) and now a game in Cleveland where both of the Ravens’ top two quarterbacks were knocked out of the game, at least for a stretch.
They survived because Jackson came through in the nick of time, racing out of a locker room visit that may or may not be innocent. Really, who knows? At this point, who cares?
On a night where legends, and legendary locker room speculation, was made, this was a show to be enjoyed, not questioned.
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