The Ravens came into the NFL’s 100th season with an offensive game plan that belongs to the days of NFL yore: run the hell out of the football, then when the defense creeps up to stop the rush, throw it over their heads. Through one game, that strategy is working better than even the most diehard Ravens believers could have imagined, and the team absolutely shredded the Dolphins, 59-10.
Baltimore completed step one in that offensive strategy with ease. The Ravens began their season with a 49-yard run from free-agent acquisition Mark Ingram, who looked like he should be piloting a TIE fighter in the next Star Wars movie in his dark-visored helmet. For the Dolphins, facing the Ravens’ offense probably felt like being targeted by the Death Star.
That opening drive featured all kinds of interesting formations, personnel groupings, and motion as the Ravens aimed to generate confusion inside their rush-heavy attack. It culminated in an Ingram 1-yard touchdown run.
Everything that happens against the Dolphins this season comes with the caveat that Miami has the worst roster in football and appear to be intentionally tanking for a chance to take a quarterback in the 2020 NFL draft. But the one decent area of the Dolphins’ roster is the secondary, with Xavien Howard and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Lamar Jackson lit that unit on fire and then basked in its warmth.
On the second drive, the Ravens used play-action to collapse the defense toward the line of scrimmage before Lamar casually tossed this pass to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, the speedster out of Oklahoma who projected to be the perfect fit for the Ravens offense.
Then on the very next drive, Lamar and Hollywood took the top off the Miami defense. Brown broke free deep down the field and Jackson easily found him for another deep score:
Two career catches. Two career touchdowns.— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) September 8, 2019
Hollywood Brown HAVE A DAY! pic.twitter.com/CVUxXCi5JB
With 130 yards and two touchdowns on the first two catches, Brown may have had the best start to a pro career in NFL history.
The first three drives were the perfect microcosm of what the Ravens want to do offensively: establish their will on the ground, use play-action to keep the defense guessing, and generate game-breaking downfield plays. The success didn’t end there. On Baltimore’s next drive, Lamar had yet another score, this time a 33-yard rainbow to Willie Snead, another speedy wideout:
Lamar’s throws looked crisp and smooth, calming the concerns of many that the dynamic quarterback is a subpar passer. Jackson finished the first half 10-for-11 for 210 yards and four touchdowns. He went on to finish the game with a cool 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five touchdown passes, which is good for an absurd 16.2 yards per attempt and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
But solid throws from the pocket have never been what makes Jackson unique. On his fourth touchdown pass of the day, he showed just how miserable he can make life for his opponents and what makes him one of the league’s most special players:
Even when a defense can get pressure on Jackson, there are few quarterbacks better equipped to avoid it. That Lamar could find Miles Boykin off his back foot is just unfair.
The Ravens added another Ingram touchdown before halftime, and went into the break with a 42-3 lead. Last week, Jackson said that he hoped people would say the Ravens have “the best offense they’ve ever seen” after Week 1. He’s off to the right start: The Ravens’ 42 points in the first half set a record for the most points for any offense by halftime in their first game of the season.
Lamar nearly had a fifth highlight-worthy touchdown on a 39-yard toss to Mark Andrews (who looked like the real deal at tight end, as he accumulated seven receptions for 105 yards while Lamar was on the field and caught a fourth-quarter touchdown from Robert Griffin III) before Andrews fell at the 1-yard line. It wasn’t much of a missed opportunity though: Lamar found fullback Patrick Ricard for that fifth touchdown two plays later.
Jackson very nearly had a sixth touchdown pass, but it was dropped by Snead.
It’s worth stating once again that this all came against the Dolphins, who are likely to watch more offenses put up gaudy numbers against them. But no one had expectations for the Ravens anywhere near what they showed Sunday. Jackson began the season with an over/under touchdown total of 16.5. He was nearly a third of the way to that mark before the third quarter was over. If the Ravens offense looks even half as good in the rest of their games as it did Sunday, Lamar Jackson could be the new Patrick Mahomes and Baltimore will be a conference favorite.