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Upon Further Review: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is flipping the narrative surrounding him

·5 min read
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With his second-half performance in the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, quarterback Lamar Jackson continued to re-write the narrative surrounding him during the first three seasons of his career.

Jackson shook off struggles that plagued him and his team for the better part of two quarters, bringing Baltimore back from a 14-point deficit to win the game.

It marked the third time this season that Jackson has directed a double-digit comeback, a marked improvement from the 0-6 record that Jackson owned from 2018-20 when trailing by 10 points or more.

Sunday’s comeback was the fourth overall this season for Jackson. As he moved Baltimore in position for a Justin Tucker field goal to secure the victory, the MVP candidate directed the eighth game-winning drive of his career.

“I’d rather not be behind,” he told reporters afterwards. “I’d rather just step on the gas and just keep going, just keep scoring. But our team, we’re fighters. We believe in each other. We’ve got faith. We were just talking about that in (the locker room). We’ve just got to keep it going. Hopefully, we won’t be in any more overtime games.”

Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens flips into the end zone for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens flips into the end zone for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jackson’s teammates, however, credited the quarterback, his effectiveness and the confidence he exudes for the faith they share.

Jackson is playing with a strong resolve and a greater feel for the game and how his opponents try to attract him. That growth has led to better execution in the passing game. After years of being described as deficient when having to rely on his arm or when having to play from behind, Jackson is getting the job done both as a rusher and passer.

On Sunday, he rushed for 120 yards on 21 attempts and passed for 266 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions after opening the game with just 65 passing yards, a touchdown and interception in the first half.

The Vikings join the Chiefs and Colts as foes that saw their fourth-quarter leads erased by the quarterback this season. Jackson also beat the Lions after facing a fourth-quarter deficit.

“He’s a fighter, and he’s a finisher,” Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen said. "They try to label him. They try to just say everything they can about him, because they know what type of person he is. They know how good he is and how scary he is. ... So, hats off to him controlling our offense, getting the ball to the guys and just making plays.”

Cardinals just might be for real

It’s probably time to take the Arizona Cardinals seriously. On Sunday, they rebounded from a gut-wrenching loss to the Green Bay Packers to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 31-17 on the road.

But what made the victory even more impressive was the fact that the Cardinals earned it despite missing top contributors in quarterback Kyler Murray, wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. Starting running back Chase Edmonds left the game after Arizona's first offensive play.

With backup quarterback Colt McCoy and running back James Conner leading the way, Arizona notched its NFL-best fifth outing of the season with more than 400 yards and 30 points.

The performance served as a testament to the depth that Arizona boasts and the resilience of a locker room that earlier this season earned a win against the Cleveland Browns in the absence of coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was ruled out for one game after testing positive for COVID-19.

At 8-1, the Cardinals reclaim the best record in the NFL, and they have matched the best start in franchise history through nine games.

Unlike last season, when Arizona wilted when adversity struck, this squad already seems more battle-tested, which could serve it well down the stretch of the season while on a push for the playoffs.

#FreeBaker?

After a tumultuous week that culminated with his team’s divorce from Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield helped direct an authoritative 41-16 victory over the hosting Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Mayfield passed for 218 yards and two touchdowns while completing 66.7% of his passes. He had no turnovers and posted a passer rating of 132.6 (his season high) as the Browns produced their second-highest point total of the year.

Mayfield entered the game with strong motivation after a week in which Beckham’s camp had criticized him for not consistently delivering the ball to the wide receiver despite the fact that OBJ frequently got open.

Mayfield played more freely with greater decisiveness on Sunday, which was similar to last season when the quarterback went on a surge after Beckham’s season-ending knee injury.

Part of the reason for the improvement, according to people familiar with Mayfield’s game and the Browns’ offense (who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity given the sensitvity of the situation), stems from the fact that the system and the quarterback’s comfort are heavily predicated on timing and precision. Mayfield and Beckham had yet to develop strong trust, partially because Beckham had a tendency to freelance at times, which caused Mayfield to hesitate and thus miss opportunities.

Could Mayfield, whose production spiked sans Beckham in 2020, be poised for a similar outcome in 2021?

The Browns certainly need that. At the season’s midway point, they own a 5-4 record and sit tied for third place in the AFC North. The second half of the season features plenty of challenges. Road games at New England and Baltimore sandwich a meeting with Detroit, followed by a home date with the Ravens and Raiders after the bye week. Cleveland then will hit the road for games at Green Bay and Pittsburgh before a season finale against Cincinnati.

If the Browns are to reach the postseason for a second consecutive season, they’ll need more consistent play from Mayfield and the offense to match the generally strong efforts of a defense that ranks third overall in the NFL.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lamar Jackson is flipping narrative about his comeback capabilities