No, they didn’t need a coin toss. But this weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens will play again—and the Ravens may need help.
Last week, Cincy pounded Baltimore into submission, and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was conspicuous by his absence. Seems he once again is suffering from a late-season leg injury that prevents him from practicing and playing.
Without him, offensive coordinator Gregg Roman’s run-heavy game plans lack winning vitality and invariably come up short.
In an era in which most NFL teams throw to score points then hand the ball off to exhaust the game clock, only Chicago and Atlanta ran the ball more often than the 2022 Ravens. Jackson led the team in both rushing attempts and yards gained.
And why not? Jackson’s rushing average was 6.8 yards per attempt. Only Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields 7.1 ranked higher. Interesting to note that Buffalo QB Josh Allen and Giants QB Daniel Jones finished third and fourth in the category. Clearly, these days not all NFL quarterbacks make all their money passing.
Forced to identify the NFL’s most exciting pure runner, I’d select quarterback Lamar Jackson over quarterback Justin Fields in a heartbeat. Both are spectacular! And Jackson makes people miss, changes direction then accelerates away from danger better than any ball carrier/running back in football. Until he doesn’t!
That’s when he gets buried by a pass rusher —and the Ravens begin to unravel.
I get it, running quarterbacks help their teams win and make for special moments.
Take away Jalen Hurts’ 760 rush yards, and the Eagles probably don’t have a first round bye. David Jones’ play calls include quite a few designed QB runs. And who doesn’t enjoy Buffalo’s Josh Allen leaping over dumbfounded defensive backs?
But Hurts, Jones and Allen all threw for 3000+ yards this year. Fields and Jackson barely eclipsed 2000. And Jackson seems particularly inclined to abandon the pass pocket and improvise his way downfield. That’s when he’s most vulnerable.
The great Bill Walsh once told me (paraphrasing): “The difference between Steve Walsh and Joe Montana is Steve was always asking, ‘What do I need to do to win this game?’ Joe was asking: ‘Who can I get the ball to to win this game?’”
Bottom line for Baltimore: if Lamar can’t play and perform well against Cincinnati this weekend, the Ravens become a longshot to win this game.
Almost seems like a design failure of sorts, doesn't it?