Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens have taken the league by storm this season, beating virtually every heavyweight opponent in their path.
Sunday was no different. The 49ers came into Baltimore 10-1 and left with a bitter tasting loss, courtesy of another clutch game winning field goal from Justin Tucker. Both teams gave strong showings through four quarters, but Lamar Jackson’s play was again what set the Baltimore Ravens apart from a strong opponent.
The passing numbers weren't there for Lamar Jackson in Baltimore this weekend, but the confidence to dominate was. Jackson ran all over the vaunted ‘Gold Rush’ defensive front of the 49ers, and made their first round defensive line look ridiculous on numerous occasions. With his fourth hundred yard rushing performance of the season, Jackson is dominating through the air and on the ground unlike anyone in the league at the present moment. Looking back through the years, it’s hard to find anyone to compare Jackson to even in the hundred year history of the NFL, except perhaps Atlanta Falcons era Michael Vick.
But unlike Vick’s early seasons as a QB, Lamar has been far less reliant on his legs in 2019. His deadly quick release and accuracy has been put on full display over the last twelve games, and an offseason with head coach John Harbaugh has paid dividends to the team's success through the air. Despite being on the verge of surpassing 1,000 yards rushing with four games to go, Jackson has been able to balance his skill sets well in 2019. As he carries himself with such confidence in 2019, we must remember how far he's come since last season.
It seems almost a lifetime ago when Ravens' faithful were chanting "We want Flacco!", in a playoff game against the Chargers last season. Since that lackluster performance from Jackson, his work to become a more complete quarterback has been second to none. As a more refined passer, and naturally gifted runner of the football, Jackson’s evolution as an NFL QB is on record breaking pace. With 25 TDs to 5 INTs, and a 7.0 yards per carry average on the season, he's capitalizing on every opportunity presented to be a fully utilized weapon in Baltimore's offense. The trust and confidence in his relationship with Harbaugh has been a major factor to his elevated play, and it looks to be a strong foundation for a long lasting relationship.
At his current standing, he’s in the lead of the MVP race, and has elevated his team to the first seed in the AFC. As the season comes to a close, the league will be hard pressed to find any legitimate second place contender for MVP votes outside of Russell Wilson.
Whether or not Jackson wins the MVP, his victory Sunday against the 49ers is proof of concept that he’s earned his social media handle @new_era8. He is the embodiment of the next era of NFL quarterbacking, and with peers like Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, and Josh Allen, it’s clear that this ‘new era’ has arrived. Strict pocket passers may become a more and more devalued quarterback play style with the way the league is moving, and the future is brighter than ever for quarterbacks with a strong run factor. Now, all that's left to be seen is if Jackson will be hoisting an MVP trophy, or a Lombardi(or both!) at the end of the season.