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Lamar Jackson Is Running Away With the MVP Award, but He’s Focused on the Super Bowl

The Ravens look unstoppable, and the MVP is Lamar’s to lose. Is there any limit to what the 22-year-old QB can do?

Baltimore Ravens v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The only punt the Baltimore Ravens were interested in on Monday night was punting the Los Angeles Rams out of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The Ravens beat the Rams 45-6 on Monday while outclassing them in every aspect of football that can be measured, and also a few that can’t. Lamar Jackson had five passing touchdowns in a legendary Monday Night Football debut, Baltimore scored six touchdowns on its first six drives, and the Ravens dropped more points in one night than the Rams had allowed since Columbus Day. The Ravens submitted a nearly perfect football game against the defending NFC champions that took them to 9-2, but the scariest part was how easy all of it looked.

Jackson completed 15 of 20 pass attempts for 169 yards (8.5 yards per pass) and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 95 yards on just eight carries before being benched with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the game was in hand much earlier than that. Jackson completed all nine of his passes in the first half for 87 yards and three touchdowns while running for 80 yards. That was almost as much as the 108 total yards the Rams gained in the first half. He added two touchdown drives in the second half for a rare accomplishment: six drives, six touchdowns. This was the first team to score on their first six possessions since the New Orleans Saints in 2008.

From the first kickoff, everything looked easy for the Ravens. On Baltimore’s opening drive, the team drove 55 yards and Jackson capped it with a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Marquise Brown. It was Baltimore’s seventh opening-drive touchdown this season, the most in the league.

Brown caught another touchdown pass on the next drive to put the Ravens up 14-0. Brown finished with five catches for 42 yards and would have had a third score if he had not dropped a TD pass from Jackson early in the fourth quarter.

Things only got easier from there. Baltimore got the ball up 21-6 at the two-minute warning before halftime and subsequently ran a two-minute drill. That’s not a metaphor. Baltimore was moving the ball so well that they ran four times for 30 yards on the drive. They needed only three additional passes to complete a 75-yard drive with a touchdown to receiver Willie Snead to go up 28-6 at halftime.

The only person who found any fault with Lamar Jackson’s play was Lamar Jackson. With the Ravens facing a first-and-10 at the Rams’ 30-yard line, Jackson dropped a shotgun snap at the 36-yard line, picked it up, and ran 35 yards but tripped over his own feet and was stopped just shy of the goal line. Jackson slammed his hands on the ground and then began hitting himself in the head. That was more punishment than the Rams defense doled out. Aaron Donald, Rams defensive tackle and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, did not register a tackle or a quarterback pressure in the first half and managed just one tackle in the game.

The Rams defense is not an easy matchup. Entering the week they were one of the 10 most efficient squads in football and a top-three run defense per Football Outsiders. Baltimore’s coaching staff—from head coach John Harbaugh to offensive coordinator Greg Roman to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale—chewed up their L.A. counterparts and politely spit them into a napkin they then tossed into a trash can. Baltimore gained 285 rushing yards while holding the Rams to 22, controlled the ball for 40 minutes, and gained 31 first downs to the Rams’ 14. Most disrespectfully of all, Baltimore converted on all three of their fourth-down attempts, including a fourth-and-4 conversion while up 29 points late in the third quarter that kept a drive alive for another touchdown. That aggressiveness is a centerpiece of Baltimore’s identity—and a stark contrast with Sean McVay’s Rams. Entering this week, the Ravens were the most aggressive team on fourth downs this season while the Rams were the most conservative, and it showed over and over on Monday night which team believed in their quarterback and which did not. Ravens punter Sam Koch punted just once on Monday, giving him two punts in Baltimore’s last three games. Justin Tucker, the league’s best field goal kicker, had one attempt—the sixth time he has had zero or one field goal tries this season. Baltimore’s offensive game plan is to keep Jackson on the field.

That aggressiveness extends to the other side of the ball. Defensively, Baltimore is the most blitz-heavy team in the league, consistently disrupting Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Baltimore sacked him twice, hit him seven times, and forced one acrobatic interception to former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, who enjoyed the revenge (he also got tangled up with Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the field after the game).

Their offensive and defensive aggressiveness has led to historic success. On Monday the Ravens became the first team to win multiple games by 39 or more points in the same season since the 2007 New England Patriots, the first team to win four games by 34 or more points in a single season since the Buffalo All-Americans in 1920. The Ravens were also the first team with 2,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards through 11 games since Baltimore did it as the Baltimore Colts in 1958, according to Chase Stuart.

Jackson has been aptly compared to Michael Vick throughout his pro career. In 2016, Vick tweeted that Jackson, then a sophomore at Louisville, was five times better than he was in college. Jackson himself cites Vick as one of his favorite players to watch growing up, and he is on pace to break Vick’s records for rushing yards by a quarterback. Jackson’s 876 rushing yards are already the fifth most by a quarterback, and he has five more games to play. He is 27 rushing yards away from passing Vick’s 2004 total and is on pace to break Vick’s record 2006 total by more than 200 yards. Vick never won MVP, but through 12 weeks Jackson is the odds-on favorite to become the youngest MVP since Jim Brown in 1958—not that Jackson cares.

“It’s cool, but I’m trying to win a Super Bowl,” Jackson said.

Three-quarters of the way through the NFL season, the Ravens are the only serious contender to beat the Patriots in the AFC. Luckily for every football fan in America, next week they host the San Francisco 49ers, who are in line for the no. 1 seed in the NFC. After this Ravens win and San Francisco’s thrashing of the Packers on Sunday Night Football on back-to-back nights, that game may be the most anticipated matchup of the entire season. As good as Monday was for Baltimore and Lamar Jackson, the best is yet to come.