Some athletes get built up just to be torn down.
Lamar Jackson was great in 2019. He won MVP on a unanimous vote and was deserving of it. But 2020 brought increased scrutiny. When the Ravens lost a playoff game to the Tennessee Titans a year ago, Jackson was blamed for not winning a playoff game, though football is a team game. Jackson’s numbers regressed during this past regular season, as did the Ravens’ record, and everyone seemed to enjoy taking shots at him.
Jackson is still one of the most electrifying players in the NFL and showed that on Sunday. Jackson put some narratives in his past by helping the Baltimore Ravens get past Tennessee 20-13 in a tense AFC wild-card playoff game. Jackson rushed for 136 yards and the Ravens moved on to the divisional round.
Jackson wasn’t dominant, especially passing the ball (he had 179 yards through the air), but he made enough happen to win, including an electrifying touchdown run. If some are going to put all the blame on Jackson for “losing a playoff game,” then he deserves full credit when the Ravens win one, right?
Lamar Jackson makes big plays
The top highlight of the Ravens’ first playoff win since the end of the 2014 season came on a play that looked like a Titans sack.
On a third-and-9 with the Ravens trailing 10-3, the Titans got a rush on Jackson. He escaped, and that means trouble for defenses. Jackson got in the open field and cruised past everyone for a fantastic 48-yard touchdown run. Not many players in NFL history have been able to hit a big scoring run that suddenly. There was a reason Mike Vick was trending on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.
Jackson had more than 100 yards rushing. He hasn’t been as effective running this season but came on late in the regular season. When Jackson is running well, the entire Baltimore offense is hard to stop.
The Ravens didn’t light up the scoreboard, but a fantastic defensive effort helped get them the win.
Ravens hold down Derrick Henry
In the divisional round loss last season, the Ravens let Derrick Henry get going. Tennessee didn’t even need Ryan Tannehill to win as he had just seven completions and 88 yards in the 28-12 victory in 2020.
The Ravens took a lesson from that. They sold out to stop Henry, and it worked. Henry had 29 yards on 14 carries through three quarters. Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, and Baltimore made him a non-factor. He finished with 40 yards rushing on 18 carries, and his longest run was 8 yards.
The Ravens had a chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter. A terrible decision by Titans coach Mike Vrabel to punt in Ravens territory on fourth-and-2, despite being down by a score, led to a Ravens drive that drained 5:41 from the clock. The Ravens seemed to have a key first down on their own fourth-down conversion attempt, but receiver Willie Snead was called for a questionable offensive pass interference. Baltimore kicked a field goal instead and took a 20-13 lead.
The Titans got the ball back with 4:13 left, needing a touchdown. On the first play after the two-minute warning, Marcus Peters picked off Tannehill’s deep pass. The Ravens stomped on the Titans’ logo, a callback to Tennessee doing the same on the Ravens’ logo before a meeting in the regular season, just to rub it in. The 15-yard taunting penalty wasn’t great, but Jackson put the game away with a 33-yard run and a key first down.
The Ravens put a lot of frustration behind them Sunday. That’s especially true for Jackson, who doesn’t have to hear about not winning a playoff game anymore.
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