(WHTM) — Sunday night was a case study in the adolescent career of Lamar Jackson.
The highs, the lows – the risk, the reward. All on display in the thrilling 36-35 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
None more glaring than the extremities of his two different games in 60 minutes. Both exemplified in the first minute and the last minute.
Starting with his second throw of the game, a pick-six into the arms of Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu. This coming after having a sure-fire touchdown to a wide-open Hollywood Brown on the play before.
The opposite end of the spectrum put on display in the last minute.
A 4th & 1 direct snap to Jackson on his own 43-yard line resulting in a clutch first down rush to seal his first career win over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
The game itself was symbolic.
It was a microcosm of Jackson’s short, but bountiful career.
Not just the win, but the way it happened.
After two brutal interceptions in the first half, the knocks on Jackson were echoed loud enough for the entire city of Baltimore to hear.
“He can’t throw. He can’t win in the playoffs. He can’t win the big one.”
Yes, Sunday night wasn’t the “big one” in the grand scheme of things.
But it was maybe the “biggest one” for Jackson in his career.
Every year, he continues to add another notch to the belt.
First, it was the fact he can only run. He then goes out and wins the MVP award the next season.
Next, it was the fact he had no playoff wins after two home letdowns to both the Chargers in 2018 and the Titans in 2019. He then goes out and gets redemption against Tennessee in January.
Now, it’s the fact he can’t overcome Patrick Mahomes. Now – check.
It certainly didn’t feel that way for the first 43 minutes against Kansas City.
After Travis Kelce ran through the entire Ravens secondary on his way to a 46-yard touchdown rumble to give the Chiefs a 35-24 lead, it felt like we were rewatching the same movie for the fourth time in a row.
It was at that point that Jackson flipped the narrative. Literally.
Two 4th quarter touchdown runs including the now infamous flip once he was in the clear to give the Ravens the 36-35 lead with 3:14 to play.
Jackson accounted for 86 yards himself (48 rushing, 38 passing) on the two drives.
This coming nearly a year to the day after Jackson was run off the field by Kansas City in his own building with a 34-20 loss.
Jackson completing only 53% of his passes and sacked four times while not eclipsing the century mark for passing yards (97).
On Sunday, he completed 69% of his throws, tossing 239 passing yards, 107 rushing yards, and posting the highest yards per completion (9.2) of any career matchup vs. Kansas City.
Night and day numbers from No. 8.
While others continue to come around on Jackson, his head coach has always had faith.
With 1:05 left to play and holding that 36-35 lead, John Harbaugh was faced with the decision that 99.9% of other NFL head coaches would have been too terrified to even mentally entertain.
Go for it in your own territory or kick the ball back to Patrick Mahomes. Obviously, Mahomes is lethal with any time on the clock – but this choice was more about his counterpart.
Harbaugh yelling out to Jackson, “Lamar you want to go for this?”
The answer was already known.
Harbaugh has already believed in his 24-year-old quarterback. Even when he was a 22-year-old rookie.
Dating back to October 2019, when the Ravens traveled to Seattle and were faced with a similar situation in a 13-13 game in one of the league’s most hostile environments.
Harbaugh asked then like he did Sunday if he wanted to go for a 4th & 2 from the Seattle 9-yard line.
The result? A 9-yard touchdown in the 30-16 victory.
There’s a difference between supporting your players and believing in them.
The latter wins ballgames.
While Harbaugh’s confidence in Jackson has remained the same through the years, the public’s has not.
There’s always one knock waiting around the corner for the dual-threat quarterback.
Every year, Jackson continues to check another box that leaves the critics with less and less to say.
By tomorrow, it’s likely another criticism will be conjured up to take it’s place.
It’s just the nature of the business.
But be careful which side of the debate to take when it comes to the already decorated 24-year-old MVP quarterback.
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At this rate and before long, there won’t be anything left to say.