Lamar Jackson Shines: Dominant Performance Propels Ravens to AFC Championship

Lamar Jackson Shines: Dominant Performance Propels Ravens to AFC Championship

Baltimore’s frontrunner for the MVP title showcased an outstanding performance in the Ravens’ 34-10 victory over the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He delivered an electrifying display, scoring four touchdowns – two in the air and two on the ground, accumulating 152 passing yards and an impressive 100 rushing yards. This dominant performance effectively dispelled any lingering doubts about his playoff capabilities.

Addressing the noise surrounding his playoff record, the Ravens‘ star quarterback, postgame, acknowledged being aware of the criticism. However, he emphasized his focus on winning and dismissed the outside opinions. Despite the challenges posed by the Texans in the first half, maintaining a 10-10 score at halftime, Lamar Jackson exhibited resilience. Facing an aggressive defense led by DeMeco Ryans, Jackson encountered multiple blitzes and concluded the second quarter with limited passing yards and three sacks, potentially unsettling for a player with past playoff setbacks.

Yet, in the second half, Jackson showcased unwavering determination. He led the Ravens to four consecutive scoring drives, covering distances of 53, 93, and 78 yards. Achieving touchdowns on each trip to the end zone, Jackson etched his name in NFL history. With over 100 yards both in passing and rushing, he became the first player to record two or more passing touchdowns, two or more rushing TDs, 100-plus rushing yards, 100-plus passing yards, and a 100-plus passer rating, as highlighted by NFL Research.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh commended Jackson’s stellar performance, expressing confidence in his abilities. Harbaugh noted that Jackson has maintained focus and dedication throughout the season, directing the team’s trajectory from the outset.

It proved to be a commanding performance, accentuated by the stark contrast to Baltimore’s previous showings in a similar postseason position.

The Ravens exhibited dominance throughout the 2023 season, culminating in securing the AFC’s top seed, with Lamar Jackson poised as the prospective recipient of the AP Most Valuable Player award. This situation, however, served as a reflection on the team’s past setbacks in 2019 and subsequent shortcomings.

In 2019, as the top-seeded team, the Ravens, led by the soon-to-be unanimous MVP Jackson, faced a humbling defeat at the hands of the Titans in the Divisional Round, marking Jackson’s second consecutive one-and-done playoff loss.

Despite a playoff victory in 2020, Jackson encountered difficulties in his most recent playoff appearance before the current game, managing a mere three points, resulting in another defeat.

His playoff record as a starter stood at 1-3, accompanied by a 55.9 completion percentage, a 68.3 passer rating, a 3:5 passing touchdown to interception ratio, and an average of 1.8 giveaways per postseason game.

In the recent postseason start against the Texans, akin to the Ravens’ resounding victory on the field, Jackson surpassed these previous metrics significantly. He achieved an impressive 72.7 completion percentage, committed no turnovers, and boasted a stellar 121.8 passer rating.

Jackson showcased an impressive 65.6% success rate on his 22 dropbacks against the Texans, marking the fourth-highest in his career, according to Next Gen Stats. Notably, he adeptly navigated Houston’s blitzing strategies, countering a formidable 75% blitz rate with a remarkable 13 of 18 completions for 120 yards and two touchdowns against additional rushers.

Acknowledging the Texans’ early success with blitzing, Jackson commented, “All blitz and zero, they were doing their thing. But we watched a lot of film. We were prepared. We just were making little mistakes on protecting the blitz and getting the ball out on time. But second half, I felt like we were doing what we were supposed to do.”

Adding a touch of flair to his triumph, Jackson paid homage to Bo Jackson with an extra 10-15 yard celebratory run into the tunnel after his 8-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 31-10.

This outstanding performance not only propelled the Ravens into the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 2012 season, when they last clinched a Super Bowl, but also marked Jackson as the first quarterback to lead his team in rushing during a season and advance beyond the Divisional Round.

For Jackson, this stellar showing serves as a redemptive response to any lingering critics. However, he remains focused on the immediate future, emphasizing the need to stay in the present playoff moment and not prematurely shift thoughts to Super Bowl LVIII.

“We’ve got to finish,” he asserted. “Still in the playoffs, not in the dance yet. I’m looking forward to next week. I’m not even thinking of the Super Bowl until we handle business.”