Lamar Jackson plays the hero, lifts Ravens over Browns in NFL's best game this season

LeBron James was like all of us on Monday night.

It will take an epic to beat Baltimore Ravens-Cleveland Browns for game of the year. It was as thrilling as the NFL can get. Monday night had everything.

Lamar Jackson, who was in the locker room with cramps for most of the fourth quarter, emerged at the two-minute warning and threw a fourth-down touchdown pass to give the Ravens the lead. Baker Mayfield led a quick drive for a score and the tie. Then Jackson answered again, passing the Ravens into territory for Justin Tucker to make a 55-yard field goal with two seconds left to give the Ravens a 45-42 lead. A safety on a lateral play at the end gave Baltimore a 47-42 win.

If you didn’t like that game, the NFL isn’t for you.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) rushes for a 17-yard touchdown against the Browns. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) rushes for a 17-yard touchdown against the Browns. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Epic fourth quarter in Cleveland

When Mayfield threw an interception to linebacker Tyus Bowser in the third quarter, that set up the Ravens at the 1-yard line. They scored their fifth rushing touchdown of the night and even though the extra point was blocked, Baltimore led 34-20. Given how well Jackson was playing, it seemed the game was over.

It was just getting started.

Then there was a report Jackson was back in the locker room. He was having a marvelous game at that point with 124 yards rushing on nine attempts. It was a callback to his MVP season a year ago. The team announced he had cramps. ESPN showed Jackson gingerly running back to the locker room, and Trace McSorley was playing quarterback for the Ravens. That came after a Browns touchdown on fourth down and a two-point conversion. The Ravens went three-and-out with McSorley, thanks in large part to Marquise Brown’s third dropped pass of the night, and the Browns got the ball back trailing, 34-28.

Mayfield led a nice drive after that and capped it with a 5-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal with 6:33 left. Because the Browns went for the two-point conversion after their previous score, the extra point gave them a 35-34 lead.

The game seemed to be on McSorley’s shoulders, and then he slipped and hurt his knee on a third-down run. The Ravens had to wonder who would be playing quarterback on a key fourth down. Then, suddenly, Jackson was back. And he had some magic.

The Ravens went for it on fourth-and-5, Jackson’s first play the entire fourth quarter. Jackson rolled to the right and found Brown across the middle wide open for a 44-yard touchdown and the 42-35 lead.

Then Mayfield answered.

Ravens, Jackson come through

Both quarterbacks were great on Monday night. Mayfield answered a lot of critics with some clutch plays, including a game-tying drive after Jackson’s touchdown throw.

Mayfield hit Kareem Hunt on a 22-yard touchdown with 1:04 to go. The Browns kicked the extra point and it seemed the game would go to overtime. Jackson ran very well on Monday night but aside from the long touchdown to Brown, he hadn’t thrown it well.

Then Jackson, who was in the locker room for more than a half hour of real time, started dicing up the Browns. He completed a few passes to give Tucker a shot. Tucker, one of the greatest kickers ever, came through. A safety on a crazy lateral play in the final seconds ended it.

There have been plenty of good games this season, but the Ravens win was the best of the year. It’s hard to get better than that.

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