BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Ravens just blew up a New England Patriots defense that was allowing under 10 points per game. The Lamar Jackson-led offense topped that total in the first quarter and went on to score 37 points for the game. The win ruined the Patriots’ undefeated season and kept the Ravens in firm control of the AFC North.
It also elevated quarterback Lamar Jackson from the local MVP conversation into the national one. As NFL Today and Inside The NFL analyst Phil Simms put it, “Lamar Jackson I think is an easy sell, just because nobody expected [him] to be this great.” Ray Lewis voiced a similar thought last week.
Jackson’s passing stats don’t jump out as particularly impressive. He was an efficient 17-23 against the Patriots, but those completions only went for 163 yards and a touchdown. He’s certainly had better passing days, like the opening-day 17-20, 324-yard, five-touchdown demolition of the Miami Dolphins. But his 226.6 yards per game passing and 64.3% completion rate leave him at 20th and 19th in the NFL respectively.
To look at Jackson as merely a passer, of course, misses the point. He’s the biggest running threat from the quarterback position in the NFL. He’s averaging 79.6 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry over the first half of the season. He has three 100-yard games rushing. Having that potential in the same backfield as Mark Ingram makes the Ravens a particularly dangerous rushing team.
But again, to highlight the rushing attack doesn’t do the system justice. The Ravens have built their offense around this dual threat that Jackson provides. As Simms describes it, “the system is built around so much deception… speed, sweeps, faking, guys moving, lead blockers, all that. So it’s something we’ve really never seen ever in the NFL.”
The League has seen its fair share of athletic quarterbacks. But it’s uncommon to see that speed and elusiveness so integrated into a team’s offensive scheme. “It’s almost like a magic act with the Ravens sometimes,” Simms marvels. “You can’t tell who has the ball, because so many people are crossing each other’s paths.”
That system, and the confusion it creates, was on full display in Sunday night’s win over the Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium. “I think it was a very smart game plan, of course, by the Baltimore Ravens,” Simms points out. “They made the Patriots play a different way, and they got a slower Patriots defense in the game. And they took advantage of the fact that they were much faster with the running backs and especially the quarterback. And that really helped them. To me, that was the biggest thing about the game, that Baltimore had a game plan that gave them a better chance to win.”
Look for more of the same Sunday, when the Ravens return to action against the Bengals.
You can get more NFL insights from Phil Simms along with Ray Lewis, Steve Smith Sr., Brandon Marshall, and host James Brown tonight when Inside The NFL airs on Showtime at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.